Is It Over? by Sandy Brehl and Rebecca S. Hirsch

IS IT OVER?

Sandy Brehl, Author

Rebecca S. Hirsch, Illustrator

Pen It! Publications, Fiction, Jul. 6, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Storms, Weather, Fear, Self-esteem, Self-reliance, Family, Parents

Opening: Clouds tower! Waves crash! “DADDY!”

Publisher’s Synopsis:

IS IT OVER? celebrates the power of love and storytelling to overcome fear. A prowling, growling thunderstorm sends Risa running to Daddy, begging him to make it stop.

When the storm worsens, Risa asks for a story, but Daddy’s time as a soldier changed his childhood view of storms. Inspired by her stuffed toy elephant, Ivan, Risa summons the courage to find her own story in the storm one that helps them both.

What’s  to like about this book:

With hurricanes, tropical storms and tornados already beginning, Sandy Brehl’s book about storms is very timely. It is a quiet book that will help soothe children’s fears about the storms that pop up when they are least expected. I will have to admit I love storms and find her story very creative!   

Brehl’s text is very lyrical and is packed with noisy words: RRROAR!…CRRRACK!…KA-BOOM! The story is very visual, which will delight readers. Even Daddy has a moment when his heart races, but he admits to Risa that he loved storms when he was kid, because he saw stories in the storm shapes. But it requires imagination. Risa watches the clouds and suddenly she begins to see her own storm pictures. Such a creative way to help kids through a noisy storm. It is an excellent book to read aloud.

Rebecca S. Hirsch vibrantly illustrates IS IT OVER? with double-page spreads. The words and the illustrations depend upon one another. They show emotion and imagination. Her artwork seamlessly flows with the strength of the storm and is bright and cheery at the end. The entire book is gorgeous and will be a winner with families.

ResourcesIS IT OVER? is a resource for families and teachers. But you can also check out Teacher Resources on Brehl’s website. Encourage kids to talk about how storms make them feel. Watching clouds turn into shapes was one of my favorite things to do as a child. Have kids share what they do to help them deal with a storm. Do they play in the puddles when the storms are over?

Sandy Brehl is an award-winning author, member of the Wisconsin chapter of SCBWI, and the Holocaust outreach educator. She is the author of the award-winning Odin’s Promise Trilogy, a middle grade series set in Norway during WW II. Visit here website.

Rebecca S. Hirsch is an illustrator and member of the Wisconsin Chapter of SCBWI. She lives with her husband and daughter in Waukesha, WI. Visit her website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

Mari’s Hope by Sandy Brehl

Mari’s Hope (Book 3 in the Odin’s Promise Trilogy)

Sandy Brehl, Author

Crispin Book, Historical Fiction, Sep. 5, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Norwegians, WW II, Underground resistance, German occupation, Dogs, Bravery, Courage

Synopsis: Mari’s Hope is set in a small village in occupied western Norway during the final years of World War II.  Thirteen-year-old Mari has been assisting Dr. Olson for over a year, studying by day, and making home visits to treat villagers in the afternoons and evenings. She wears her hair in a long girlish braid so that the German soldiers ignore her activities. She also plays a role in her family’s efforts in the local resistance, despite ever-present dangers, especially from the a soldier named Goatman and from Leif, her one-time school friend, now a German collaborator.

Mari’s Hope delivers the dramatic conclusion to the middle-grade historical fiction trilogy begun with Odin’s Promise, awarded the 2014 Midwest Book Award for Children’s Fiction, and Bjorn’s Gift, published in 2016.

Why I like this book:

Sandy Brehl writes a powerful and authentic story about the harsh realities of Mari’s life in her village of Ytre Arna, under the watchful eyes of Germans. Brehl’s writing is a richly detailed and visual story of danger, bravery courage and hope. A lot of research went into this series.

The setting is realistic and readers will feel the bone-chilling cold as Mari trudges through snow and dark Norwegian nights to care for patients in their homes, dodges patrolling soldiers, maintains her strength on a daily diet of clear broth soup with a few bits of carrots or turnips, and makes some harrowing and risky trips for the resistance.

Great characters make a good story and Brehl has succeeded with Mari, a mature, intelligent, independent and caring character from the start. Her credibility grows as she proves her trustworthiness and takes on many dangerous missions. Leif, a childhood friend who joined the Germans, is a nice balance in the story. Leif watches out for Mari, but she doesn’t trust him. But who can you trust during war?

Brehl focuses on the strong sense of community that emerges among the Norwegian villagers as they stand strong against the invading Nazi troops, who have come as “Viking Brothers” claiming to protect their neutral Norway from the Allies. The plot is tense and dangerous as Mari’s parents, brothers and sister along with neighbors launch a very strong underground resistance to thwart the German plans — with some humor at times. They also help local Jewish members escape. There is also an overriding theme of love of family, love of community and love of country in this story.

New readers to this series will enjoy Mari’s Hope based on its merits. It is not necessary to read the first two books to understand the story. I know I will be catching up with the first two volumes of this exciting  trilogy. Below is a synopsis of the first two books.

Resources: Check out the Author’s Note at the end to learn how she beautifully weaves together fiction with historical and real-life events. There is also a glossary at the end the helps readers with Norwegian expressions. Visit Sandy Brehl on her website for more information about her trilogy.

Odin’s Promise is a story of the first year of German occupation of Norway in World War II as seen through the eyes of a young girl. Eleven-year-old Mari grew up tucked under the wings of her parents, grandma, and older siblings. After Hitler’s troops invades Norway in Spring 1940, she is forced to grow beyond her “little girl” nickname to deal with harsh new realities. At her side for support and protection is Odin, her faithful elkhound. As the year progresses, Mari, her family, and her neighbors are drawn into the activities of the Norwegian underground resistance.

Bjorn’s Gift is the second book in the trilogy and continues the exciting adventures of Mari, who faces growing hardships and dangers in her small village in a western fjord. German occupation troops and local Nazi supporters move closer to her family’s daily life, and her classmate Leif becomes active in the Norwegian Nazi youth party. Mari struggles to live up to her brother Bjorn’s faith in her, as she becomes more involved in risky resistance activities, trusting only her family and a few close friends. Across Norway, oppressive laws are imposed in the months from late 1941 to early 1943, with dire local consequences. Still, difficult decisions force Mari to admit that many things in life are not easily sorted into good or bad, and she begins to wonder if Hitler will ever be defeated and whether the occupation of Norway will ever end.

Check other Middle Grade review links on author Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.