"When the Soldiers Were Gone", by Vera W. Propp, is a look back into a terrible time in our history. It's told through an innocent 8 year old boy's eyes.  Young Henk is living on a farm in Holland when World War II finally comes to an end! He finds himself thinking about all of the times that he has had to hide from the soldiers, in a hamper, until the soldiers leave their property. He remembers one time when the soldiers came and left the barn door open so that all of his family's animals escaped. They forgot about him while rounding up the cows and raced back to find him fast asleep in the dark hamper. He was feeling very frightened in that small, dark space and was beginning to worry about what the soldiers were doing and why his family was taking so long to let him out of the hamper. He decided to close his eyes against the darkness and that must have been when he fell asleep. His mama and papa were so sorry to have left him in there for so long. But he could see that everyone was safe and all was well. What he doesn't know or understand is that his real parents have come back for him now that the war is over. They left him at a good Christian farm outside of the city in order to save his life.

His real parents had been on the run and hiding out wherever and whenever they could, going for many days without food. Fortunately, they survived and now that the soldiers are gone, they've come to get their child back. But, this wonderful "adopted" family kept the fact that he was not part of their family and that he was Jewish, so that he would never let on to his true identity. He couldn't believe it! This relatively short book is based on a true event to a young Dutch boy who had forgotten about how he'd come to live on this farm. He has so much to learn and adjust to. He loves his current family and doesn't know his real parents who are now taking him back to the city. The story, as told throughout in his point of view, explores all of his feelings that he had while being frightened and insulted. This is an excellent story to relate this horrific time in our history to younger children without being overly graphic or frightening. It is perfect as a read aloud and will open up discussions for 8 years old and up.

Are you looking for an effective way to teach your child math skills and yet make it fun too? "The Grapes of Math", by Greg Tang, is one of the most unique picture books that does just that! Each page has bright, colorful pictures that are illustrated by Harry Briggs and asks the reader to solve for the number of objects. The text is written in poetry form and cleverly relays hints to help you quickly find the sum.

For instance, there are bunches of vivid cherries set in front of a sky of billowy clouds and floating above trees full blossom. On the opposite page, the poem has the heading, "Sweet Cherries" and reads,

"Apples are crabby, berries are blue,
Cherries are sweet, and so are you!
How many cherries do you see?
Please don't count them separately.
Pair the cherries bunch by bunch,
Add them quick before they're lunch!"
Mr. Tang has outlined the answers to all of these problems in the back pages with simple diagrams that make all of the solutions easy to understand.  I, for one, am not quick to find solutions in math problems. And I know that there are many children, as well as adults, who can learn from this clever book. Some children look at math problems and easily find the answer buried therein.  But it takes other children more time to solve the same problems. This book is for them.  However, this book is really for any and everyone.  Those children who can easily find the solutions, will enjoy solving them and checking to see if they found the same solution as the author.  Mr. Tang points out that this book teaches four important lessons in problem solving:  1) to think beyond the obvious, 2) to think of different strategies to find the sum, 3) to use many math skills to solve a problem, and finally and perhaps most importantly, 4) to organize the information. This is one of those books that can really turn a child on to math and problem solving! Where were these kinds of books when I was growing up?

This book is so clever that I cannot think of any age who wouldn't get something out of it.

Newton's Book News