Cybils listening continues with two books about war, one fantasy with dragons and one historical.
The Lost Heir. Wings of Fire Book 2 by Tui Sutherland. Read by Shannon McManus. Scholastic, 2016.
This is book 2 in the Wings of Fire series. While I read Book 6, Moon Rising (a subseries starter) last year, I’ve never read the first book in this original series. Tsunami and the other Dragonets of Destiny, having escaped from the caves where they were being kept by the Talons of Peace organization and from captivity in another dragon kingdom, know they are being followed by enemies who don’t care if war between dragon tribes continues as long as they might win. The dragonets hope that Tsunami’s mother, Queen Coral of the Seawings, will keep them safe. Tsunami also secretly hopes that she might be the future queen of the Seawings, despite never having been to the underwater kingdom.
The setting in a new kingdom makes it easy for new readers (or listeners, in my case) to slip in. Tsunami has always thought she was treated badly by the Talons of Peace, but now she has to confront prejudice against her best friends, as well as seeing the severe lack of freedom given to her young sister, Anemone. There’s a mysterious menace in the hatching grounds that Tsunami is determined to thwart. She’s also inadvertently befriended a cute boy sea dragon – who’s loathed by the Queen. This is a really impressive series, with great character growth and a sophisticated plot – Charlotte has been raving about it for years and I really should just read the whole thing. Shannon McManus does a fine job distinguishing the voices of the many characters. My only caveat is that while my son would love it, there’s far too much violence for my seven-year-old daughter to want to listen as well, despite the dragons.
Guts and Glory: World War II by Ben Thompson. Read by Aaron Landon and Kiff VandenHeuvel. Landmark Audio, 2016.
Stirring military music introduces this entertaining 6-cd history of World War II. The telling is shared between two narrators, one with a young, enthusiastic Popular Mechanics for Kids-style voice, and one with a gruff army sergeant voice who also does accents for quotations from major leaders of the time. I was impressed when it started the history not with Czechoslovakia but with China and Japan, because (to paraphrase) “previous histories were written by old white dudes who thought only Europe mattered”. Broad stroke history is mixed in with tales of brave individuals and small groups from all sides, including women and people of color. Between chapters are “Know Your Vehicles” sections where two similar vehicles from opposite sides compared, with a paragraph of how the differences mattered, e.g. “French tanks at the beginning of WWII were every bit as tough as the German Panzers, but made to stand still….” I had a hard time focusing on the technical details and really appreciated the summaries, while my son ate up the details. Even the seven-year-old was taken with stories like that of Vojtek the bear who officially joined the Polish military.
This is mostly about the battles rather than the Holocaust – it says straight up that that’s outside the scope of the book, but the story of a Jewish Russian soldier who staged a successful break from a death camp is included, along with pointers to further references. I don’t think I’ve ever read straight-up military history before, but I was kept interested except for those brief vehicle moments and learned lots of things that definitely weren’t covered in my high school history class, all told in kid-friendly, colloquial language that talks about things like “kicking Hitler right in the Panzer”. A pdf with over a hundred pages of photographs, illustrations and those Know Your Vehicles charts is included. I’d say this definitely lives up to its 100% Not Boring Guarantee and would make for entertaining family listening with older kids.