Saturday, January 7, 2017

by Tilar J. Mazzeo 

She is called "the female Oskar Schindler only because they both saved people. Schindler saved 1,200 but Irena Sendler (in Polish her name was Irena Sendlerowa) saved 2,500 very young children. Today, in Poland, she is considered to be a heroine. Irena had an aversion to that word. She did not consider what she did to be extraordinary; just a normal duty.
As a social worker in 1942, Irena was allowed to go into the Warsaw ghetto using a cover as a public health specialist. She went from door to door of the Jewish families who were trapped and asked the parents if they would entrust her with their children. Soon enough Irena began smuggling infants out of the walled city in suitcases, wooden boxes, and under overcoats right past the noses of German guards. With toddlers and schoolchildren she took them through the filthy and extremely dangerous sewers.
Irena organized a huge network of dozens of men and women who quietly joined her in the rescue. They risked their lives by doing so. If they were caught by helping a Jew, their entire family would be executed. According to Irena, not one ever refused to take in and hide a Jewish child. Her success would never have been possible without these courageous and dedicated people.
For years I have heard about Irena Sendler through e-mail messages describing her indomitable spirit in whisking children out of the Warsaw ghetto and wanting to know and understand the kind of person she was. What drove her? Luckily for us, Tilar J. Mazzeo has written one tremendous book on her. Mazzeo has written many other bestsellers and I have read just about all of them, one of which The Secret of Chanel No. 5 is reviewed in this blog. There have been endless amounts of stories that have come out about the Holocaust and if you think they are all the same, then you're mistaken. Irena's Children is unlike anything that I have read before on this topic. I don't believe there is any other woman who accomplished what she did. Her selflessness, compassion, strength, and daring is awe-inspiring. Also to be commended is her network of good, upstanding Poles. It's probably the first time that I have read that not all of the Poles were bad (traitorous) as countless books have depicted them being before. So, even though Irena Sendler didn't like to be called a heroine, she definitely deserves it. Her wonderful, caring helpers should also be named as heroines/heroes. Mazzeo definitely knows how to tell an incredible story and she did justice with this one.
Very highly recommended. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

by Richard A. Serrano 

During the summer of 1893, three events were going on at the same time: the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, William "Buffalo Bill" Cody's Wild West show, and the Great Cowboy Race. The Columbian Exposition showcased to the American public what the coming twentieth century would look like. They saw high-speed electric engines, drinking fountains, prototypes of modern conveniences, such as the dishwasher and the fluorescent light bulb, and other unique things. Both Cream of Wheat and Juicy Fruit made their debut. Over twenty-seven million people visited and it was a huge success.
Buffalo Bill leased fourteen acres of land costing him $180,000 right across the street from the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. He employed 400 people of different nationalities who were Indians, cowboys, and soldiers. Cody was quite the promoter. He had glossy color programs printed up and a sixty-four-page booklet filled with articles about Cody's exploits on the frontier. Every means of transportation stopped at its front gate. His show ran for six months and drew profits upwards of one million dollars. Six million fans were enthralled and Cody was considered to be the greatest showman ever.
The Great Cowboy Race of June 1893 soon overtook the thrills of the Columbian Exposition and the Wild West show. Nine riders (not all of them were actual cowboys) rode one thousand miles starting from Chadron, Nebraska to the finish line in Chicago.The race would test endurance and would take two weeks. The Wild West may have been ending but not to the cowboys. They were proud, still had grit, and were not ready to give up on their way of life.
American Endurance is a fantastic read written by a master storyteller. Author Richard Serrano packs in the history of the Old West covering the settlers, the individual characters, the vanishing of the buffalo, Indians laying down their weapons to live on reservations, and the closing of the frontier. There's been a few books over the years about this time period but none of them have the caliber of American Endurance. The amount of detail within is mind-boggling. If you go to the Sources near the end of the book, you will see the encyclopedic research that Serrano did (29 pages worth) and they in and of themselves are fascinating to read. 
So, if you have a hankering for the Old West, you must get this book. You won't be disappointed and you will definitely be entertained.
Highly recommended.