All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Book– Do not let the book’s thickness fool you. Knowing that I gravitate towards historical fiction novels, a dear friend of mine recommended All the Light We Cannot See and I could not put it down!

Doerr uses succinct, alternating chapters narrated by a blind French girl and a German boy, illustrating different perspectives of World War II from a child’s point of view. Although the Holocaust, Russian sieges, invasion of Paris, and the Allied Invasion of France are acknowledged, it is worth noting that the author assumes readers have some background on World War II, as the novel’s focus is on how the character’s development is shaped by war conflict.

Marie-Laure lives in Paris with her father, who works at the Museum of Natural History. The museum is rumored to hold The Sea of Flames, a jewel whose beholder becomes immortal at the expense of all their loved ones fatal suffering. At six years old, Marie-Laure’s vision deteriorates and she eventually loses her eyesight completely. Despite Marie-Laure’s visual impairment, her father makes it his mission that she learn to navigate on her own. He builds a miniature model of the town so she can tactilely memorize her way about the neighborhood. Fast-forward six years to Nazi-occupied Paris. Seeking refuge, Marie-Laure and her father flee to Saint-Malo and stay with her agoraphobic great-uncle, and with them, they carry the most valuable and dangerous stone, The Sea of Flames.

Werner is an orphan boy who lives in a mining town in Germany. Fond of applied mathematics and science, he is fully enticed with the processes behind operating and maintaining devices, so much so that he becomes the town’s go-to person for fixing various radios. After another successful repair, Werner is recruited to an academy for Hitler’s Youth, where his talents will be put to use. Werner is kept in the dark regarding the implications of his special assignments to track the resistance. At first, he creates triangles and finds points on a map, and only later comes to realize the destruction caused by his seemingly innocuous actions. Torn between doing what is expected and understanding what is moral, Werner questions his loyalties when he and Marie-Laure’s paths converge in their attempts to survive Saint-Malo’s bombings.

All the Light We Cannot See poses compelling questions about fate, free will, and making the right choice in a time when the pressures of political forces meet moral ambiguities. It is available in book, audiobook on CD, and e-audiobook via OverDrive formats.

Choosing Beginning Reader Books

Helping children learn to read involves finding interesting books that are the correct level. Luckily, we have a great collection of beginning reader (BR) books.

Beginning readers (sometimes also called Easy Readers) are designed to support new readers develop the skills necessary to move into chapter books. BR books are comfortable to new readers because of their size, limited and often repetitive vocabulary, predictable story lines, helpful illustrations, and familiar characters.

Our BR books are located just inside the youth section. The newest releases are at the start of the section, and the rest are organized alphabetically by author or series. We have everything from classics (Frog and Toad, Dr. Seuss, Dick and Jane) to contemporary (Pinkalicious, Pete the Cat, and Pokemon). All of these are marked with a colored sticker on the spine to designate the difficulty level.

The Geisel Award (named in honor of Theodore Seuss Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss) honors the most engaging and imaginative BR books published each year. You can find recent winners Charlie and Mouse, We Are Growing!, and Don’t Throw it to Mo!, as well as many other titles from the full list of past winners and honorees, in our collection.

There are also BR non-fiction books that are located in the J Nonfiction section with the other books of those topics (sharks, castles, construction equipment, etc.). Some series to look for are Fly Guy Presents, Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library, and Blastoff! Readers.

These books can really help readers gain fluency and comprehension skills that will prepare them for chapter books. I promise that reading the understandably popular Elephant and Piggie series or anything by Jan Thomas aloud will be fun for everyone involved!

Ask any of us at the Youth Services desk for more information on choosing beginning readers.