A Beetle is Shy

by Dianna Hutts Aston

illustrated by Sylvia Long

Some beetles can crawl through the eye of a needle. Some of them measure half a foot in length. Some dig and some hop. Some fly and some swim. All of them have incredible features that dazzle the eyes and ensnare the senses. Beetles come in every color of the rainbow, in incredible shapes, with astonishing abilities. Aston shares with readers’ insight about the character of these special bugs. Indeed, she skillfully explains their traits, but the narrative is not what makes this tremendous volume stand out. What truly resonates are the wonderful illustrations by Sylvia Long. With dexterity, artistry, and vision she depicts these creatures of the wild, bringing them and all their subtle nuances to the eyes of young audiences. The painted renderings make them accessible in ways that photography may not. An informational book worthy of any science teacher’s library, surely this one belongs in the hands of curious young people.

Reviewer: Remy Dou

Marsha Skrypuch

skrypuch-marshaMarsha Forchuk Skrypuch is a Ukrainian Canadian author acclaimed for her historical fiction and nonfiction. Her award-winning books for young people include Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan’s Rescue from War, a Red Cedar Information Book Award winner and OLA Red Maple Honor Book. Its sequel, One Step at a Time: A Vietnamese Child Finds Her Way, won the OLA Silver Birch Nonfiction Award. Her young adult novel Dance of the Banished is a Junior Library Guild Selection for 2015. In 2008, in recognition of her outstanding achievement in the development Ukraine’s culture, Marsha was awarded the Order of Princess Olha.

In November 2016, her true story picture book, Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival will be published. On February 28, 2016, her highly acclaimed novel, Making Bombs for Hitler will be published in the U.S.

Marsha did not learn to read until she was nine years old and in the fourth grade for the second time. One of her favorite discussion topics with students is how she transformed herself from a book-hater and nonreader to a book-writer and read-a-holic. She lives in Brantford, Ontario.

Selected Reviews of Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch’s Books

Making Bombs for Hitler
Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
Books about World War II generally center on the plight of the Jewish victims of the Nazis. However, this novel uncovers another group of victims—the child slave laborers taken from Ukraine. Their fate at the hands of Stalin was not much better than captivity with the Nazis. Lida and Larissa, young sisters, have lost their parents when they are captured by the Nazis, who separated the girls. Larissa, the younger of the two, is separated from her older sister and “adopted” by a German family. Lida is transported by train to a slave labor camp. She guesses correctly that she will be perceived to be of more use if she is older, so she adds two years to her age and spends part of her internment using her skills as a seamstress to serve her captors. She and a small group of friends use their wits and skills to keep each other alive. The descriptions of their living conditions are disturbing;” Eastern” (Russian and Ukrainian) prisoners were at the bottom of the camp hierarchy, receiving worse food and assignments than Polish or German prisoners. In fact, the girls are given the particularly dangerous assignment of assembling Nazi bombs. Lida is an intriguing character, clever and with a well-developed sense of survival that repeatedly saves her life and that of her friends. Throughout her ordeal, she prays for her sister’s survival. Some of the tortures endured by the prisoners are horrible, but the descriptions of them are not graphic. It is beyond comprehension that children were able to survive their captivity. A view of often-visited period offers new perspective. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross (Children’s Literature).

Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival
Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
In 1981 refugees were fleeing from Vietnam in the wake of the American withdrawal. Tuan Ho tells his first-hand account of escape, beginning with his mother’s whisper that they are leaving their home that night. Transported to the ocean by an anonymous truck driver, Tuan must dodge bullets as he races to a small skiff—some of his family seem to be lost. When they board a larger boat, though, his sister and aunt are there. That is just the beginning of the fear and suffering they endure: the boat is crowded with sixty passengers and little water. The sun blisters their skin. After that, the boat springs a leak—then the motor dies. On the fifth day, adrift, they spot another boat that suddenly bursts into flames. Could that be their fate? Luckily, the parched and weakened refugees are rescued by an American aircraft carrier; at last Tuan has all the milk he can drink. Deines’s oil paintings are wide two-page spreads from many different perspectives. Applying paint thinly with canvas peeking through, the artist achieves a misty texture that suggests a feverish dream. Deep purple-blues define night and ocean scenes, while sunlight burns from orangey-yellow backgrounds. Skrypuch tells the remainder of Tuan’s story in a section that includes family snapshots, so older readers can understand why his father arranged the escape and what happened afterwards. Young readers will no doubt be relieved to learn that the whole family eventually reached Canada and are thriving there. Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft (Children’s Literature).

Program Details

Marsha speaks to students of all ages (PreK – 12th grade). Fees: $400 for 1 session, $700 for 2, $850 for 3, $1,000 for 4. Plus travel expenses. Schools may share a day. Her hour long sessions can hold up to 200 students.

  • The Hidden History of World War II: Grades 4 to 8. Referencing her WWII novel, Making Bombs for Hitler, Marsha discusses how she did her research and shares the survival stories of kids, including slave laborers, underground soldiers, and stolen children, of the time period.
  • Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival: Grades K to 4. This book is the true account of a six year old boy’s escape from Saigon with his mother and sisters after the Vietnam War.
  • The Hidden History of World War I: Grades 5 to 12. Marsha’s three Ukrainian Internment books and her four Armenian Genocide novels are all set during World War I. Marsha’s grandfather, who immigrated to Canada from Austria-Hungary in 1913 was interned as an enemy alien in Canada. This presentation is filled with anecdotes of real young people and their challenges during WWI.

Additional Information

To learn more about Marsha and her publications please visit www.calla.com.

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