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One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping

The second book featured in the History Series. One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping, Dear America diary by Barry Denenberg.

Summary: Julie Weiss is a Jew living in Vienna, Austria. Through her diary entries, she tells of the experiences of being one of the few Jews in her class. Her family, like so many other hard-working Jewish families, is well-off, living in a fancy apartment. But once the Nazis occupy her beloved Vienna, the changes are sweeping. Her family endures being kidnapped in the night to remove pro-Austrian signs of sidewalks. And worse. But mercifully, Julie is sent to New York to live with her aunt and uncle. But she most go alone and make a new life for herself.

When I was little, I loved the Dear America series. Back then, you could go to Barns ‘N Noble or your local library, and pursuing the shelves, you could find any number of historical novels. Today, I get excited if I can find one historical novel that I haven’t read yet (One, that is, that’s actually about the War and not just a love story).

My mom was a fan of the Revolutionary War period, but as with the American Girl books my favorites were always the Depression and WWII stories (Hence, my favorite girls were Molly & Kit).

One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping, may not have been the first WWII/Holocaust children’s literature I’d ever read, but it was probably the first . . . shocking one I’d read. This was the first one that really scared me.

Oh, I’d read simple books like Behind the Bedroom Wall or Number the Stars, but those, while still Holocaust stories, were, well, tamer.

Reading about Julie’s experience with the Nazis showed me, for the first time, the truth about Nazi oppression. And it’s much more horrid than we even learn about in our History classes.

The great thing about any Dear America story is that it’s told in diary form; that gives it a much more personal feel. You’re getting a much better feel for how the protagonist feels. And as Julie’s world crumbles around her, she shares her thoughts and fears. Actually, you feel with Julie. Especially that night when the Nazis come knocking on the flat’s door and drag away her parents. Then, we feel Julie’s complete and utter hopelessness . . .

But then, Julie’s aunt and uncle send for her and Julie suddenly finds herself able to escape Nazi occupied Austria for America. But she has to go alone. We adjust to America with Julie. We feel her helplessness vanish as she experiences the theatre and, in one of my favorite scenes, the automat.

Eventually, America and her Aunt and Uncle becomes her new home.

One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping, is to this day one of my favorite WWII children’s novels. And, like all Dear America books, it ends with a “Life In . . .” section, which contains notes, explanations, and pictures. In other words, children learn an awful lot about history through Dear America books and One Eye Laughing.

Note: There are some intense moments, as it is a Holocaust novel.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Classification: Children’s

Era: Pre-WWII (1938)

Featured in Austria in WWII

Goodreads: One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping

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Prisoner of Night and Fog & Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke


It seemed that the perfect first post would be the two books that I used in our very first history post. Prisoner of Night and Fog and Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke are companion novels by Anne Blankman.

Gretchen Muller is the darling of the Nazi party, the pet of none other an Adolf Hitler. But thanks to a young Jewish reporter, Gretchen begins to see the truth about her beloved party and the truth about her papa’s death. This information, however, sets her up as a prime target of the SA (of which her brother is apart) and the Nazis. Blankman’s stories are terrifying and mesmerizing, and better yet, thoroughly researched (each book contains a works cited page). She gives readers an inside look at not only the inner workings of the Nazi party, but also explores the psychological state of Hitler and many Nazis/SA members. Book #2 focuses largely on Hitler’s rise to power and the story behind the infamous Reichstag Fire.

If you are looking for a well-researched WWII story. This is it. Furthermore, if you are looking for a deeper understanding of the psychology of Adolf Hitler, but don’t necessarily want to bog yourself down with reports from psychology journals, than these are definitely the books for you.

You’ll learn more about the infamous SA, the group that Hitler later killed off because of their violence. You’ll get an inside view of what it’s like to be a member of the party. And from the inside view, you will learn why they were so very, very evil. You’ll learn more about the Reichstage Fire and travel with  Gretchen into the Reichstage after the fire took place. You’ll see first hand how quickly Hitler could turn on someone. But, you’ll also get to see Hitler at home; an almost pathetic-looking man, who yearned to be accepted. So, yes, you get a well-rounded picture of the man. But what better way to learn about one of the most evil men in all of history?

In my experience with historical fiction, I have actually learned more about history than any ordinary history textbook. Why? Because history textbooks are essentially propaganda. The texts are specifically written to teach us, the American People, the version of the story that they want you to learn. Forget about wether it’s true or not.

Because of this, I do read a lot of historical fiction and my favorites to read are YA because you can find a story about what really happened. The best written ones give you notes and a bibliography at the end. That’s how you know they did their research! Furthermore, if you look hard enough, you can find a story about the events, and not just yet another romance set during WWII. Forget the romance. I want the facts. I want to know what it was like to live back then. Those are the kinds of books we’ll feature here. And that is definitely what you get from Prisoner and Conspiracy. 

Disclaimer: There is some violence in this book. Gretchen, herself, gets beat up.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Classification: Young Adult (YA).

Era: Pre-WWII (1930s)

Featured in The Reichstag Fire

Goodreads: Prisoner of Night and Fog and Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke

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