Monday, January 12, 2009

Stalin's Children by Owen Matthews Review


Stalin's Children, Three Generations of Love, War, and Survival, is a story of three generations and their experiences under the various incarnations of Russian government.

The opening chapters are rather sad but expected. The author did a wonderful job of explaining the past through photographs, excerpts of correspondence, and generational storytelling passed down from his grandmother and mother. The most central story of this book is author Owen Matthews' mother being separated from her parents at a very young age and raised in orphanages.

Growing up without a mother or father was so pivotal in shaping his mothers outlook on life and the direction her life took. Probably eighty percent or better of this book is about his mother and father, Mila and Mervyn, in one way or another.

Building on top of this and other tragedies in this book, this book is also a story of love lost and love gained, and the family ties that defy odds. Owen Matthews recounts his father Mervyn's early years working in academia and as a foreign exchange student in Russia. Mervyn of course falls in love, is seduced by the KGB, is deported from the country, sneaks back into the country, and fights with every ounce of his soul to be with his beloved fiancée, Mila.

Russophiles will love this families story. Despite the fact that this is a non-fiction book, it reads as nicely as a novel.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Wisdom of Solomon by Wanda E. Brunstetter Review


The Wisdom of Solomon is one of the cutest child-friendly storybooks I've ever encountered.

The book is a compilation of twelve lesson-teaching stories that children will be able to instantly relate to.

Although the stories are about Amish children I believe any child can relate to the characters. Occasionally an Amish word is used in a story, but the English word is always parenthesized for easy story-telling.

This would make a great read aloud, and Kindergarten age children would probably enjoy acting out the stories as well. The only religious part of the book is the beginning of each chapter where a verse from Proverbs is shown next to the chapter title. Other than that, the stories are about everyday life and the lessons children learn such as sharing, telling the truth, minding parents, and being a friend.

Young children ages 3-5 will probably ask to be read this book over and over and older children 6-7 will probably enjoy reading this book once or twice by themselves. I give this book a very high recommendation for it's interesting stories, cute artwork, and the lessons it teaches.

This book is due to be released March 2009. At 256 pages, this book is also a great value.