Monthly Archives: July 2011

Retro Friday: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

After reading The Giver, I decided to read another of Lois Lowry’s literary work, entitled Number the Stars. Number the Stars has also been one of my favorite required readings in grade school. Although the story is shorter than The Giver, the book provides significant information about the life situation of the Danish people during the German occupation of Denmark.

Here’s the plot description from the back cover of the book:

Ten year old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend Ellen Rosen often think about life before the war. But it’s now 1943 and their life in Copenhagen is filled with school, food shortages, and the Nazi soldiers marching in their town.

The Nazis won’t stop. The Jews of Denmark are being “relocated”, so Ellen moves in with the Johansens and pretends to be part of the family.

Then Annemarie is asked to go on a dangerous mission. Somehow she must find the strength and courage to save her best friend’s life. There’s no turning back now.

Lois Lowry wrote Number the Stars with a purpose of giving readers a different perspective of war, as the story is centered and told from a child’s point of view. For Annemarie, the protagonist of the story, life before and after war is as opposite as the colors black and white. The war not only inhibits the people from their freedom, but their lives itself are changed, defeated. The attainment of happiness seems as farfetched as fairy tales coming true. There are no happy endings and the life before war has become merely a dream. The book evidently shows that Kirsti’s (Annemarie’s younger sister) yearn for fairy tale stories symbolizes people’s hopelessness – that fairy tales serve as their way of escaping from the dreadful and painful reality. With this said, the way children and adults think about war is no different from each other.

Even though I have not encountered how it was like to live in an era of war, reading this book made me realize that I am extremely fortunate not to experience what Annemarie went through. I could never imagine myself in Annemarie’s position. I might not even survive due to the scarcity of food, as the Danish people were only limited to eating bread and potatoes. Furthermore, distribution of electricity was also restricted. However, throughout the story, I was also amazed by Annemarie’s character development. Despite her young age, she was able to overcome her fear with bravery that even I could not have done. She was mature enough to comprehend what was happening in her surroundings; thus, she played a significant role in helping her Jewish friend, Ellen, escape from the hands of Germans.

The relationship between Annemarie and Ellen was extraordinary. Despite their differences in religion, Annemarie respects the Rosens family without showing any hint of prejudice. She saw beyond the surface and understood what was truly in the hearts of the Jewish people. As they were smuggled to Sweden with nothing but worn out clothes and small amount of food to bring, Annemarie was able to sense that their pride were not completely gone as there were still “other sources of pride that weren’t left behind.” Something that Annemarie herself couldn’t explain.

What added meaning to this book is how readers are taught about the true meaning of bravery. The following are the quotes I took from the book:

“To be brave came more easily if you knew nothing.” (p. 84)

“That’s all that brave means – not thinking about the dangers. Just thinking about what you must do.” (p. 123)

I would like to end this blog entry with a paragraph which captured the heart of Lois Lowry:

“…and I want you all to remember – that you must not dream yourselves back to the times before the war, but the dream for you all, young and old, must be to create an ideal of human decency, and not a narrow-minded and prejudiced one. That is the greatest gift our country hungers for, something every little peasant boy can look forward to, and with pleasure feel he is a part of – something he can work and fight for.”

This was part of the letter written by a determined young man named Kim Malthe-Bruun to his mother the night before he was put to death. Lois Lowry discovered this account as he was one of the Resistance leaders in Denmark who were willing to risk their lives to fight against the Germans and save the Jewish people from falling into their clutches. As this letter gave hope to Lois Lowry, let us fervently aspire to make such world possible for the greater good as well.


Retro Friday: The Giver by Lois Lowry

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

There are times when you thought you cannot actually outgrow some things you did as a child. I suddenly felt that way several days ago. I was not an avid reader before as I only read what was required of us to read in school. Other than that, my only book collection consisted of merely Archie Comics as well as book series such as Nancy Drew Notebooks and Sweet Valley Kids. Looking back, I wanted to relive that moment even just for a while. It dawned on me that I began missing the books I read during grade school. So, for the first time, I reread The Giver by Lois Lowry.

Here’s the summary from the back cover of the book:

Jonas’s world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community.

When Jonas turns twelve he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now it’s time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

Imagine a world where music and colors don’t exist; where people don’t have the freedom to choose; where everyone’s future is already predetermined by the authority. Would you still dare to live in such a community?

Jonas’ life was not as perfect as it seemed. What one might describe as a Utopian society, is only a dictatorial state-hiding underneath a decorated facade. In Jonas’ world, there was complete equality among the community where individuality of the people was discouraged; hence the name, Sameness. “The community was so meticulously ordered, the choices so carefully made. (p.48)” Rules were what governed the place. Each person’s life was being controlled by a ruler and one’s future had already been decided beforehand. People from Sameness were not authorized to choose a spouse and to name his/her child on his/her own. There was a puppeteer and he had his puppets.

A perfect place where everything is under control is often associated with complete freedom. This book will prove you wrong. Despite the “regulated” days in Sameness, Jonas felt no joy as he felt he was being imprisoned by someone/something. From flat and hueless shade of the community, Jonas’ Capacity to See Beyond left him long for the possibility of the existence of Elsewhere. His strength of seeing things in depth gave him the privilege to receive memories of the past from The Giver.

With the help of The Giver, Jonas attempted to search for answers regarding the life situation of his community. He realized that the community decided to throw away their freedom to avoid making wrong choices/decisions, thus resulting to less complicated life. Moreover, people did not want to suffer; thus, memories and feelings were also forgotten.

As “The Receiver” of memories from The Giver, Jonas was able to finally understand the true meanings of “being”, pain, happiness, family, love, and hope – concepts that were non-existent in Sameness. During the time when he spontaneously decided to save Gabe from being “released”, it explicitly showed how Jonas, throughout the story, developed into a responsible, selfless, emotionally-mature adolescent person who valued life not only of himself, but of others as well.

By reading this book, one can truly gain a deeper understanding that memories of the past should not be neglected, as it can not only affect a person in his decision-making process, but can also shape his future.

For the record, having read this book a second time gave me a deeper understanding of the story.


In My Mailbox: The Archie Babies

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren and was inspired by Alea of Pop Culture Junkie. This meme is about books that you received or bought during the week.

Yesterday, I was browsing through the books at National Bookstore’s Bestsellers and I came across a baby version of Archie Comics!


Aren’t Archie and the gang so lovable? I’ve been reading Archie Comics ever since I was ten years old and this was the first time Archie Comics launched The Archie Babies.

Due to the sheer cuteness of the front cover illustration of this graphic novel, I couldn’t resist the temptation to own a copy, so I decided to buy one. Although the book is catered to younger readers, I’m still a kid at heart and I’m sure I’ll enjoy every story written in it.

I can’t wait to read this graphic novel!


Aida Musical

Last Sunday, my friend and I went to watch the local broadway production of Adia: The Timeless Love Story.

The story began in a modern-day Egyptian setting at a museum where visitors admired the ancient artifacts. A man and a woman, who both seemed to be pulled by a mysterious force, approached the burial chamber. The statue of Amneris, then, explained that “Every Story is a Love Story” – as the story of these two significant strangers began to unfold and the audience were transported back to Ancient Egyptian times.

Here’s the plot description which can be found here:

Elton John and Tim Rice’s AIDA is a contemporary musical take on a grand classic tale of the timeless bond between an enslaved Nubian princess and an Egyptian soldier. As forbidden love blossoms between them, the young lovers are forced to face death or part forever. Together, they set a shining example of true devotion that ultimately transcends the vast cultural differences between their warring nations, heralding a time of unprecedented peace and prosperity.

The show ended with the souls of Radames and Aida being reincarnated to the present time in the bodies of the two strangers, proving that their lives had indeed been “Written in the Stars”.

I enjoyed Aida, as this was the second time I watched a local broadway production. Directed by Chari Arespacochaga, the show was full of singing and dancing, combined with some humorous dialogue lines from Princess Amneris.

The main cast members are as follows:

Ima Castro as Aida (the enslaved Nubian Princess); Rachel Alejandro as Amneris (the daughter of the pharoah who was bound to marry Radames); Myke Salomon as Radames (the Egyptian soldier whom Aida and Amneris loved); Hajji Alejandro as Zoser (the Chief Minister and power-hungry father of Radames); Josh Santana as Mereb (the Nubian young servant of Radames); and Alys Serdenia as Nehebka (the Nubian slave who pretended to be Aida and sacrificed her life in the hope that Aida will bring freedom to the Nubian slaves).

Being affected by war, Aida was portrayed as a type of character who took life and experiences seriously. Ima Castro played the role well and I was truly amazed by her singing voice. She was as great as Lea Salonga. How I wish both of them would work together sometime in the future.

Rachel Alejandro, on the other hand, was appropriate for her role as Princess Amneris. The audience evidently loved her character as some of her lines made us laugh. Her Disney-like voice conveyed gentleness and sweetness in her character’s personality. Amneris may be a naive princess who, at first, valued physical appearance more than what was inside, however, her character development throughout the story was the strongest. No sign of anger, envy, and jealousy was shown when she found out about the love between Radames and Aida. She became mature and composed, a sign of her becoming a good leader in the future.

Overall, the stage props and lighting was good. The songs, especially, were what made the show worth watching. They became part of the dialogue, so one should not neglect listening to them. The feelings conveyed in the songs, as well as the lyrics added depth and progression to the story line. I only had a problem with the costume. Although the show was set during Ancient Egypt, the costumes of Zoser and his ministers seemed like Chinese clothes. However, I was also amazed by the creativity of their costumes. What one might think as a mere bath towel wrapped in one’s body, those handling the costumes made it more innovative as when it was turned to the other side, a formal dress appeared.

I really enjoyed watching Aida. I hope that more exciting broadway shows will be produced in the future, e.g. Wicked. hihi!


Want Books: Mermaid – A Twist on the Classic Tale

Want Books? is a weekly meme hosted by Chachic at Chachic’s Book Nook and features released books that you want but you can’t have for some reason. It can be because it’s not available in your country, in your library or you don’t have the money for it right now.

I recently read in an article that Sony Pictures will make a fairy tale retelling of The Little Mermaid. The film will be an adaptation of Carolyn Turgeon’s novel, Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale.

Here’s the summary from Booklist on Amazon:

Turgeon refashions Hans Christian Andersen’s beloved classic, The Little Mermaid, into something altogether darker and more foreboding. When two women from two decidedly different worlds fall for the same prince, what else can ensue but heartache and misery? After rescuing a human from the sea, mermaid Princess Lenia falls hard for Prince Christopher, even agreeing to give up her beautiful voice and to endure the constant pain caused by her new legs in order to pursue him on dry land. Meanwhile, Princess Margrethe has also set her sights on the handsome prince in hopes of uniting their two warring kingdoms. With Lenia’s life on the line and war looming on the horizon, the prince’s choice is bound to have catastrophic consequences. More robust than a fractured fairy tale, Turgeon’s brooding retelling gives voice to both women, fleshing out an essentially tragic tale of destiny and desire. Not exactly a cozy bedtime story, but guaranteed to keep you guessing who, if anyone, will live happily ever after.

Being a fan of mermaids, I would love to have a copy of this novel, so I called the local bookstores and asked for the availability of this book. Unfortunately, they don’t carry this title; thus, I have to special order it from one of the bookstores and wait for at least 2-3 months until the book arrives. My patience will certainly be tested.

I can’t wait to get hold of this book!