37 Days at Sea: new MG verse novel

[#PoetryFriday is hosted today and all week by Margaret at REFLECTIONS on the TECHE!]

Ruthie Arons is a curious kid who has known recent horror, including Nazis brutally ransacking her beautiful home. Yet, she is still is a sprite who ponders all that crosses her path aboard the M.S. St. Louis, sailing from Germany to Cuba. Ruthie pranks passengers in an inventive way. She initiates shipboard friendships with all ages and cheers each of her parents as they fall ill. She is a companion to cherish.

Cover art by Kelly Murphy

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Q. I am a Ruthie Arons fan. Please share something of Ruthie’s arrival in your author-mind. Is it possible she is modeled on strong or fun-loving young girls you know today or in family history?

BK: I did not base Ruthie on any girl I know today. I did interview a St. Louis survivor in 2010 who had shown a lot of spunk and I had her in mind a bit.

Q. It’s clear that Ruthie not only admires her father, who becomes a shipboard leader on this troubled voyage. But also, Ruthie discovers the German captain is decent, too. She finds out that others of the crew don’t know the word, decency. Why is it important reveal the kindness of German Capt. Schroeder?

BK: Passengers of the St. Louis nominated Captain Gustav Schroeder for his Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center recognition as Righteous Among Nations. The captain was most decidedly not a Nazi and he truly cared about the passengers. One man I interviewed, who had been about ten years old on the ship, said the captain was “a peach.” I wanted to show that not all Germans were Nazis, not all Germans hailed Hitler, not all believed in or adhered to the Nazi ideology–at great risk to themselves.

 Q. Ruthie and her parents leave the MS St. Louis in Belgium knowing they will journey to England, after being turned away by Cuba and the United States. What do you think they experienced in England that we don’t see in the story? 

BK: Once in England, Ruthie’s father would have been interned on the Isle of Man as an enemy alien. In Germany, he was a Jew. In England, he was a German. Ruthie would have been evacuated out of London during the Blitz. So “safe haven” was only temporary.

 Q. In your acknowledgements, there is summary of what feels to me like years of perseverance in research, especially with your careful speaking to trip survivors found by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. How do you approach a survivor, who may not want to discuss such a time?

BK: I first contacted Scott Miller of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. He co-authored Refuge Denied: The St. Louis Passengers and the Holocaust. He gave me a list of survivors in the NJ-PA-NY area. I already knew that most of these people had been working with the museum as spokespeople about their experiences. I read as much as I could about the St. Louis experience before meeting with these survivors in their homes. The issue was not so much whether they wanted to talk. Rather, it was a challenge for me to get them to go beyond their usual spiel, to get underneath the narrative they typically shared so it would relate to kids. I learned so much from these people. Nothing fazed them, not a locked gate to their senior living community after 8 or a dishwasher that flooded the house while the family was away.

Q: Let’s speak about creating a story in verse. Is writing in verse something you’ve always gravitated to? What in your child days, career or study prepared you for writing poetry and especially a verse novel? What makes a story ideal to be presented in verse to young readers? And do you have preferred poetry forms to read or to write, other than free verse?

BK: I began writing poetry after I received my MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2006. When I first drafted this narrative about the St. Louis, it was middle-grade nonfiction. After hearing a panel at the 2012 Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference about historical sources and contemporary poetry, I rewrote the book as adult poetry in several voices. I workshopped and workshopped. Then I attended two Novel in Verse workshops at the Highlights Foundation and the story finally took shape as a fictionalized account with a single narrator for middle grade. I did take a post-graduate semester at Vermont in poetry with David Wojahn and read Holocaust poets in particular. What makes a story ideal to be presented in verse–that’s a great question. Trauma narratives lend themselves to verse treatment. I’ve also seen novels in verse feature many narrators which would be unwieldy in prose. I like to use certain repetitive forms at particular points of the narrative. For instance, I use villanelles at moments of great despair.

Q: Who are the poets you read frequently or especially feel drawn to? 

BK: I’m always learning about poets and their craft. I appreciate in particular Paul Celan, Miklos Radnoti, Wislawa Zymborska, Theodore Roethke, Dylan Thomas, and Elizabeth Bishop. I also like reading Nikki Grimes, Jacqueline Woodson, Richard Blanco, Mark Doty, and many others. I attend poetry readings on a regular basis and invest in literary journals.

 Q. Can we hope for another verse novel from you, now that your first is birthed? If so any early details?

BK: I do have a young adult biography in verse I’ll be able to talk about soon. That book, too, underwent a long process starting as nonfiction prose. I’ll just say it reflects the early Cold War period. My agent is shopping around a contemporary YA novel in verse, and I’m working on a new one–a narrative of a 16-year-old who had been a hidden child during World War II who comes to America in 1951 as an orphan to family she’s never known.

This is news I welcome, Barbara! Appreciations for your visit today. 37 Days at Sea leaves me feeling that this debut verse novelist is destined to add more beautiful words to my bookshelf and yours. And I would love to see this book be a movie. jga/Bookseedstudio

ALSO ~~~

Please know that one of children’s literature most-honored authors, Kathryn Erskine, writes of 37 Days at Sea that it is “a timely, compelling story of real-life refugees, seen through the eyes of a child, who is both innocent and wise.”

And further, Barbara is known to many for her notable p.b. bio limning a moment for Goldie, a schoolgirl in Milwaukee, who history came to know as Golda Meir, future elected Prime Minister of Israel.

See a book trailer for GOLDIE TAKES A STAND.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQ4qJh2Bup8

Barbara Krasner’s fascinating website is The Whole Megillah.

https://thewholemegillah.wordpress.com/author/thewholemegillah/

Pre-order 37 Days here

Lerner/Kar-Ben https://lernerbooks.com/shop/show/20730

a post after 2020 Election Results

Life is for me and is shining!

Inside me I

Feel stars and sun and bells singing.”

c. Gwendolyn Brooks, “A Little Girl’s Poem”, THIS PLACE I KNOW, Poems of Comfort

Inside I am a bubbly girl, looking and listening as my husband of 33 years in this November handles pages of the homemade card I hand him for his gift. “Life is for me and is shining!”

The stars twinkle as usual, as they did a million years ago… Though something tremendous and sad has changed us all, I am comforted by the beauty of the night sky.” Kurni Heo, illustrator, speaking in the book of poems, THIS PLACE I KNOW, Poems of Comfort.

C. JanGodownAnnino, allrightsreserved

And, yet.

Seventy million people expressed themselves and the misguided direction they expected this country to continue on, at the polls. So, as a continuing, self-directed student of The Holocaust and on aspects of World War Two connected to it, I feel relief that a mature adult who loves God, will be leading the Nation. But, 70 million ~~~

I find no better way to reach adults and older students, with the reality of how the personality of #45, who continues as the head of the Republican Party, echoes the hatred, narcissism and tyrannical nature that Hitler steamrolled with, than with the popular graphic novel, THE FAITHFUL SPY, from the pen of artist/author John Hendrix. [point of personal privilege, I was raised in a BeLoved Republican Family, & a dear relative was once invited to a Republican-term W.H., for a small-business award.]

This is a season of holding close to my heart the privilege to focus on Holocaust education. Many adults and students this year are viewing an empowering presentation from the multi-talented Mona Golabek, who you may know as author of THE CHILDREN OF WILLESDEN LANE. I hope you can spend time with the above linked video sampling, of her personal story of connection to the historic Kindertransport.

You may also like to share information about

Museum of Jewish Heritage – complimentary lesson plans (not just for NYC)

YadVashem

ADL

And I can’t resist sending love to our own powerful site in my state, FloridaHolocaustMuseum

If you are interested in other states, this list is comprehensive.

On some of our many night walks in recent weeks clear skies beamed us the red dot of Mars and yellow glows of Jupiter and Saturn. Then the full moon face floated through a tree frame and my husband pulled me to him, beholding Our Sky. I am so fortunate, so lucky, to walk This Path. I hope you feel the same way about keeping close what makes your heart sing, halfway around the world or just up a wannabe hill.

“Life is for me and is shining!

Inside me I

Feel stars and sun and bells singing.”

c. Gwendolyn Brooks, THIS PLACE I KNOW, Poems of Comfort, selected by Georgia Heard

US The Globe Theatre, London 2019

from Anniversary weekend 2020 visit to #HobbitWoods ~ Florida.

::: #RememberTheChildren #HonorHolocaustSurvivors #NeverAgain #DaysofRemembrance #HolocaustEducation

My favorite Veteran is my dear #Sgt.Dad, of Fort Dix, N.J., who prepared young men to stand up against the Nazis & Axis in #WorldWarTwo. #RedPoppyDay #Veteran’sDay2020. (Yes, I was his laaate-in-life kiddo 🙂 Thank you, Daddy. Thank you, Veterans. Thank you, Holocaust educators.

::::

Please join me as I a visit around with the poetry pals of Poetry Friday, this time’s roundup by Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge.

Last week we toured with Soul Blossom Living.

April 17, 2015 Poetry Friday post

So much to ponder this glorious day. But before pondering,

Poetry Friday today is hosted by

my pal with the perfect name,

haiku wrangler Robyn Hood Black, at her blog, Life on the Deckle Edge.

 

Days of Remembrance.

The White Rose resistance of teens against Hitler is on my mind

these days of Remembrance April 16-19.

And I have no book of poems for younger students on The Holocaust

to recommend. (Later in the post the poems from Terezin are mentioned.)

 

Bully Poems for the youngest?

An illustrated collection of poems about bullies, for the youngest

readers could be a start, if anyone knows such a collection. If not,

perhaps Poetry Friday should originate one. I would imagine subjects

of the poems would be bully-animals in the wild or at home,

top-cat, top-dog pets who scratch and bite the other family feline &

canine members. Perhaps.

Our bully is Ginger, who will not tolerate any other animals.

 

When the puppy visited

by Jan Godown Annino

Old Ginger cat arches at the door

stares down the

visiting

shivering

pup

hisses

glares

scares

him back out the door

©JanGodownAnnino

 

Remembrance References.

I hope any educator researching for their classroom can

look at award-winning former teacher Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s

HITLER’S YOUTH. This non-fiction 170-page photo-illustrated reference

not only documents what you would expect from the title, but also those

brave German non-Jewish teens who paid with their lives, by creating an underground in Hamburg and other locations.

 

 

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Artwork & poems of the children and young people

held in the Czech concentration camp

called Terezin are presented with important contextual essays of the

history of the enclave in I NEVER SAW ANOTHER BUTTERFLY. It is for

teachers and older students and very ably illuminated at this school site.

 

It’s National Library Week.

I was able to hug not one, not two, but three favorite librarians recently

at the WordofSouth celebration of books and music. Where, I am proud to say

our StoryFort’s offerings including the sharing of student art submitted to our

regional Holocaust Resource Education Council.My hubby & I attended
other gre8t events, which I will cover here on another day.

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Appreciate your family, your friends & your one & only life, this day & every day.

 

 

 

 

The r in April is for?

REMEMBER  the Sweet Children

http://www.holocaustresources.org/html

May 17 is the awards ceremony set up by the Holocaust Education Resource Council, with details at the above site, along with amazing stories of survival.

Every day is the time to read the very special “Angel on my shoulder” story of sweet Miriam, who

lives in Florida & shares the many kindnesses that brought her through Nazi brutality.

Remember the Children  HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY


this is the blog of writer Jan Annino Godown in Florida