The Earth is Singing

By Vanessa Curtis

Winner, Young Quills 2016, Secondary age category

1. Molly: I really enjoyed this book, I found it very interesting about how Hannah and her family coped mentally and physically in the states of conditions they were living in. I really liked the character Hanna. She was the little girl who lived with her Mum and her Nan. She absolutely loved dancing and her boyfriend, who she was particularly attached to. I just found her really interesting, kind but also very vulnerable because she didn’t really know what was going on with the Nazis unfriendliness to the Jews. I thought the history of the book was defiantly realistic and that was why I enjoyed it so much. It was not made up or exaggerated, it was a really god book that described everything that was happening realistically with lots of detail. The book definitely made me want to find more about the history of what conditions were like for Jews, although I do already know some information from prior history lessons. The knowledge of prior history lessons helped me visualise and understand the book and how terrible it was for the Jews. It made me feel lucky about how I live and how safe our country is compared to other countries. The book defiantly made me interested in the author. I hadn’t heard of the author but I would like to read more books written by her because she has this marvellous way of creating images in my mind that are very realistic. I just want to say that I would defiantly recommend this book to other people. I read this quickly because I was to attached to it! I couldn’t put it down! However it is a very sad book. I absolutely adored it and found it extremely interesting. Its defiantly a good read.

2. Ellie: I found this book really hard to read because it was really dark and doesn't leave stuff out just because it is a book for teenagers. It really makes you think about the experiences of the Jewish population under Nazi rule and very much brings home just how much they were forced to suffer. I think it very realistic based on what I have learnt in lessons and from the visit from a holocaust survivor we had. I definitely would read more from the author in the future.

3. Caitlin: I really enjoyed this book and would definitely read it again. I loved the characters and the how all of them were different and all had their own interesting personality. The characters were a big part of this book especially because the book was written in first person and it gave Hanna’s opinion all the way through it. The characters were also very important to the book and the way they were portrayed because what the Nazis done to the Jews is a big part of World War Two and history, the characters had to get across what life would have been like then and I believe this what Vanessa Curtis done. ‘The Earth is Singing’ was an extremely good page turner with many cliff hangers, which made me want to carry on reading the book. The storyline was really interesting and the Vanessa Curtis must have done a lot of research to make the story as factual as possible. The way the story was written made it bring a lot of emotion though, I certainly felt sorry for any Jew who had to suffer in the Holocaust during the war. It drew me in and made me feel as if I was as unfortunate as the Jews who experienced the horror of the Holocaust. Finally, ‘The Earth is Singing’ is a great book, but I believe Vanessa Curtis could possibly make a sequel due to the book ending in suspense.  

The history element of the story was extremely interesting and I definitely want to find out more about this period in history. As I mentioned before I had heard of Vanessa Curtis before, however now I would love to read another of Vanessa Curtis’ books because if it is as good as ‘The Earth is Singing’ I’m sure I would enjoy it!

I would undoubtedly recommend this book to anyone who finds World War Two interesting or anyone who likes a good cliff hanger.

4. Charlotte: Is there a special character or event or lace that you particularly liked or thought was good?

I liked the character Hanna Michelson. I liked her because she always is aware of what’s going on around her but also still having her own personal life with Uldis.

Do you think the history in this review was realistic?

Yes I thought it was realistic because it was like the events that actually happened in the past. It was also written in a realistic way.

Did the book make you want to find out more about history?

Sort of but maybe if it was written in the same style of writing.

Did the book make you want to read more books by this author?

May-be but it depends on what the book is about. I would probably read it if it was like this.

Is there anything you want to say about this book?

I enjoyed parts of it but some parts were irrelevant.

5. Edwin: This book was quite upsetting and used a lot of emotive language to get the point across. My favourite character was Hanna and how she told her story which I thought she did really well.

This book was ok, but I would consider myself to be a more adventurous type of reader, although this book was very touching, I would advise people to read it.

6. Emma: I really liked the book but it was very sad because it was about the destruction of the Jews in the war. I would recommend this book because I found it very interesting and I found that I got stuck into it. I think it was suitable for my age group and maybe only a couple of years younger. It was such a nice book and I really enjoyed it, but I did have a few tears! It was well-written and I really wanted to find out what happened in the end but it was heart breaking.

7. Harri: In my opinion this is a phenomenal book; one of my favourites ever. It had an exciting, well explained start,many surprising and devastating twists, emotional pieces of well written text and it shows how dumbfounded the Jews were as the Nazi occupation forbid them every right it is illegal not to have today. It was full with imitations of the hardship, friendship splitting, diverse and emotional experiences the innocents had to face.

It focuses on the holocaust. The genocide of many jews by the Nazis during World War 2. Before reading the book I was only ponderous and interested in the warfare of the war. The book created a newer interest for information and further explanation of the holocaust. How could the Germans slaughter millions of people? How could people follow a blind leader who was obsessed with killing an innocent race of humans? How could they not face punishment for the horrific war crimes and anti semitic actions they committed? Enough about me and my interest back to the book…
The storyline: It revolves around a young girl named Hanna in Latvia. She lives a grand life in Russian occupation. Her father is taken away from her, her mother and her grandma are left alone in their (reasonably) nice villa. The Russians flee the country after being overwhelmed by the Germans. Hanna and her family are moved to a small apartment and the Germans start killing jews and restricting them to do many things like going to a non jewish market. They slowly become unable to do anything and have to move to a relative’s loft. They are soon caught by the gestapo (who Hanna’s boyfriend works for). They shoot Hanna’s relatives and Hanna’s boyfriend Uldis had sold out their position to the police. They are sent to a camp where slowly her family are picked off to be killed one by one by hanna survives and escapes a train which was taking them to Auschwitz.

I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in romance, Jewish religion, the holocaust and the brutality of life and the Nazi soldiers. Overall I really enjoyed the book. However some dull boring and over romantic moments for 15- year- olds. A poor ending and some unexplained points. I would like to read more of Vanessa Curtis’ books. However it would depend on the timeline and main focus. For example i would not really enjoy a 21st century romance story.

8. Harriet: This book was a good book because it has really had high intence parts in it. My favourite person was Hanna and I liked how daring she was . Also I do think that the history was real. And the history really made me feel that I wanted more of the information. This book really made me thin kthat I wanted more books by this author. I loved how the author actually made the story come in real life in my head. However there are some chapters that felt like it did on a little bit. I would rate it 5 stars.

9. Katy: The Earth is singing is a unique, fast paced book that captured me the moment I started to read it. It is by Vanessa Curtis, who I think is a brilliant author.

The Earth is singing is from the perspective of a 16 year old Jew, Hanna. She is a fearless, trustworthy young girl who tries to live up to her promise to her ‘lost’ Father “I promised him that I would stay alive”.  I love how instead of focusing to stay alive herself she sets out to keep her mother and Omamma (Grandmother) alive. Imprisoned in a Nazi occupied Ghetto, she sticks up for herself, pretending that the Nazi soldiers are just normal people, not humans that are intending to kill about 6 million Jews.

I liked the character Hanna because she is kind and determined to stay alive. As she becomes weaker and weaker her hope to live grows stronger and stronger. Despite many setbacks that prevent Hanna from loving herself, her Mother guides her and helps her lead the life she wishes to live. I was so attached to, and gripped by this novel that I read it in 2 days.

The History element was very interesting. It left me wondering how people could do such horrific and deadly things to one another. Once I finished reading the story I then read the Historical note. I left the book shaking my head and horrified that only 3 people survived the Ghetto.

I have learnt a lot about the holocaust from this book. For example, I’ve learnt about the Ghetto and how evil the Nazis were lying to the Jews and shoving them in a prison. I also learnt about the pit and how thousands of Jews died this painful way.

I would definitely recommend this book. I think it is suitable for people over the age of 12 due to the disturbing parts of the holocaust. If you like to read historical novels and would like to learn about the holocaust then this book is for you.

The thing that left me questioning the story, was the end. Due to a clever twist it made me analyse and think about what may have happened to Hanna for days afterwards.

10. Kitty: The story line for this book is based on a Jewish Latvian family during world war 2. The main character, is a 15 year old trainee dancer called Anna. From the beginning you know that Anna’s father is away fighting and Anna lives in a villa with her grandma and her mum. She has a boyfriend called Uldis as well. In the first five chapters you get told about the Nazis gradually restricting the Jews rights. Then Anna’s family get moved from the villa into their auntie and uncle’s house. Anna trusts Uldis with everything so she tells him where they have gone. They live there for about a month until they get found because Uldis has been recruited and tells the police where they have gone. The auntie and uncle are shot in front of them and then they get taken to the towns ghetto. In the ghetto they live in an apartment with another family. They are in the apartment for a while and then they are told to move to a different work block inside the ghetto. She is separated from her mother and Grandma. She thinks that her mother is very ill and her grandmother has been killed. After that Anna falls sick and is taken to the hospital. Suddenly one day the Nazis come and take all the people from the hospital and march them to a field. Then they tell them to lie down and they shoot them in the back. Anna is about to get shot when the guard turns around and forgets about her. Once there is a pile of the dead bodies they bury them so Anna is buried alive. Once she hears the guards are gone she struggles to get out but manages it. She then takes the clothes off someone else and puts them on. Then she walks back to the ghetto to find the family she was living with and ask them for help. She succeeds and when the war is over the ghetto is liberated and she is free.

I really like this book because i found it was interesting and exciting at the same time. The author manged to end almost every chapter at either a cliffhanger or a dramatic and important point in the book which meant you wanted to continue reading. It also told me a lot about world war 2 and the holocaust that i didn’t know before. I think it stuck to the facts quite well (as far as i know) and was informative as well as interesting. I would recommend this book because i think it is interesting and it made me want to know more about the holocaust. It is also very informative and is written by her point of view which i think makes it more interesting. It makes you see her point of view, her thoughts, feelings and not just the facts.

11. Laura: The book was well written, with well-developed characters. Although the first half was very slow going due to the necessity of outlining the characters and situation; the remainder of the book was faster paced with lots of action. The event in the book which affected me the most was the scene inside the death pit; Hanna is trapped under the corpses of her fellow Jews who have just been shot in cold blood and has to decide if she wishes to try and escape. The fact that she has the will to go on living (and to crawl out past her mother’s body despite knowing that she will likely perish) gave me more empathy for Hanna.

From what I know of the holocaust, I think the Historical detail in the book to be both realistic and accurate. I really liked the use of Jewish street names both in the Ghetto and around Hanna’s flat; as well as the continual references to Jewish customs and ways of life as they are often omitted from similar narratives. I found that they made it feel less like fiction and proved the author had researched the era well. This was further proven by the historical note at the end of the book which detailed (in brief) the statistics and survival rates of the Riga Jews. The book did not make me want to find out more, but this is mainly because it is not a period in history that I have ever been interested in due to its deeply upsetting nature.

Overall I did not enjoy this book as much as I had hoped but I think this is due to that fact that I am not in the intended age range. Due to my previous knowledge of this area of history nothing in the book shocked me; whereas I feel that for a younger audience, who would have less awareness of the events of the Holocaust, the narrative would be very traumatic and emotional. Many of the plot lines including the boyfriends betrayal and the constant belief in the father being alive, I felt where slightly predictable and gave the impression that the narrator was of a younger age than stated. The age of the narrator was further unclear as the English was of a simplistic nature, making her seem younger. Hanna also came across as younger due to her lack of understanding of the politics happening around her and the injustice of her treatment.

To sum up, the book is historical accurate and would be a good stepping stone for younger children into fiction of this era. I would happily recommend it to others though it is not the best piece of historical fiction I have read.

12. Tasnia: I really enjoyed this book for many reasons. The plot was thrilling and had me wanting to read on. It gave me an idea of what life was like for a Jewish girl of my own age to be living in WW2. The truth and meaning of the story would make the strongest people shed a tear. I would recommend this moving story to everyone.

13. Illze: Being Latvian myself, I was unaware that there was these type of things going on during the war period based on today’s Latvian standards. It was a pleasure reading the emotions and struggles that these three Jewish woman from Latvia, Riga went through, you really feel for these people because the author created such a strong connection between Hanna (The narrator). There were moments I had a lump in my throat and I think that is something special when an author can do that. Hanna leaps off the page. She is real, vital and her thoughts and feelings create an instant connection between character and reader. Although the heroine is only 15, the book transcends the Young Adult genre and is a universal story with equal appeal to every age group. From a comfy flat to sleeping on the floor in cold misery with a group of strangers, the progress of Hanna's family through the Holocaust in Latvia is meticulously and harrowingly depicted, as is Hanna's first love and first betrayal. I think this book shows roughly a accurate depiction of the holocaust during the world war. One example of this is when a group of Jewish people including her mother was shot and thrown into a pile of dead people. During the war this was a usual event in the German concentration camps. Anyone who had to deal with the fact that their mother was shot just for being a different race is horrible to even imagine. This book certainly made me want to research more into the holocaust because, based on what I have learnt that the Nazis have done to the Jewish people, I think that people should know what has happened and to be aware that in some places that it I still going on. I defiantly want to read more books by this author because she create such a dramatic story line and she creates a intense connection between you and the character/narrator which is so realistic that the book drags you in and makes you want to read more.  Of all the books I've read and films I've seen about the Holocaust, this is the one that will linger in my memory. The tenderness, terror and tragedy are unforgettable.

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