Book Review: KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON, CHILDREN

After the review be sure to read the author interview and find out how you could win a copy of this book.

Keep Calm and Carry On, Children by Sharon K. Mayhew

Genre: Middle Grade Historical Fiction

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I’ve added this book on WWII to my book list for a couple of reasons. First, it is about WWII and we should not forget. Second, the author is a TCK. She grew up in England and moved to the US when she was eight. Be sure to read my interview with Sharon at the end of the review.

Keep Calm and Carry On, Children is set in England during WWII. It follows the lives of Joyce and her sister who live in London during the time of air raids, bomb shelters, and death. Their parents make a hard decision to move their children to the far countryside away from danger. This move is what is known as Operation Pied Piper. WWII is taught in many schools around the world, but I believe that this part of history is not well known. As the story unfolds, Joyce and her sister make friends on the train and have quite an adventure of their own in the quiet village of Leek. It is here they learn that black and white is more of a grey when times are hard and the country is at war. War has changed the lives of all – no matter where you live or how old you are. Sharon creates adventure that any reader is bound to keep turning pages to see what becomes of Joyce and her friends.

My Take: War is hard and this time period is something we don’t want other generations to forget. Sharon has brought to life a hard to tell part of history. She created characters who struggle and endure making Keep Calm and Carry On, Children a memorable story that will cause you to want to research more about Operation Pied Piper.

Insights from the author…

Where did the idea for this book come from?

That’s a great question! It all started with the seed. I go to England once a year, or twice if I’m lucky, to visit family. I’ve taken my daughter on several of these trips, so she could connect with her English roots. My grandparents, one of which passed away six years ago, have played a huge role in my life. That kind of sounds funny as I only saw them a couple times a year until about 2008 when they stopped traveling to America. But Grandad (yes, I spell it that way) is now 98 and still has a wealth of wisdom and stories to tell. And I’ve been listening…

So, the initial seed came from them tell stories about days gone by. His family, like so many patriotic families joined the war effort in any way they could. One thing his mum did was take in two evacuees for the entirety of World War II. They didn’t really talk about war time until about 2010, at that point I would sneak back up to my bedroom and write down notes of his and Nanny’s stories. As the years went on, I started taking notes on my Iphone while they were telling me about their youth’s. When they saw how interested I was in the history of the British people during that time period they started taking me to historic places related to the war and I started buying books, fiction and non-fiction, purchasing reprints of wartime documents, and doing independent research on Operation Pied Piper. As a former elementary school teacher, I read THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE every year, but just considered it fiction until the conversations began with my grandparents. I was shocked, amazed and a bit horrified that people sent their children to live with complete strangers in the countryside in the north of England. Those children had to be incredibly brave to persevere through the Blitz, through the uncertainty of their future with strangers and if or when they would reunite with their parents. 

The title of your book is somewhat different, isn’t it? I did some research and found that it is from a British WWII poster. Can you elaborate on that some? 

LOL! It is! KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON  is iconic! But it was true to the British spirit…You’ve heard of having a stiff upper lip, right? I wanted to show that attitude in my title. Thankfully, KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON was never copywrited, so I was able to use it in the title.  I think Black Rose Writing did an excellent job with the cover! They even let me have some input on it. My main requests were to use the KEEP CALM font and to have an English flag in the background. 

You were born in England and moved to the US at the age of 8. You were not much younger than your main character, Joyce. You both moved to different cultures and had to adapt. How did this experience help you understand Joyce better?

This is a really interesting question…I hadn’t thought about how my immigration affected my writing in this book. Some of Joyce’s story is my story. I lived in a rural village in England before I moved to the States. We didn’t have an indoor toilet and we bathed in a big tin tub with water heated from a coal heated stove. I think I must have compared that to what a change it was in America for me. I tried to put myself in Joyce’s shoes for each scene/chapter. I think you are right. I used my emotions for the unknown and uncertainty in my childhood to help create Joyce and move her forward in her journey. Wow! Lightbulb moment!

How else did being a TCK influence you as your wrote this story?

I really wanted to write a book that showed children (or adults) that they could overcome anything, if they just pushed forward…persevered. Facing the unknown is hard. Knowing that others have done it, hopefully, is helpful to readers of any age. 

Where is “home” to you? 

That’s a really hard question! When I get to England I am home, because of my grandad, but when I get back to the States I am home because of my husband and daughter. I’m still holding a British passport. That will change when my grandad passes, so looking deeper…I’m at home in America. I love going to England but there are so many people in such a small land area…and the roads! OMGoodness the roads! They are so narrow!!!

Fun Question….

What is your favorite British dish that you had to learn to make as you live in the US? Or what is the first thing you want to eat when you go back to England?

So I’m definitely not a chef, but there are two things I must have when I’m in England: fish and chips and a scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam and of course a cup of tea.

Thank you for inviting me to share my story. I’m humbled by every person that reads my book and reviews it or reaches out to me. I’m so blessed in so many ways.

And thank you, Sharon, for such a delightful interview. I love hearing from authors about how they created their characters and the background information. I’m so glad that your grandad got to read it.

And thanks to Sharon, you all have an opportunity to win a copy of her debut middle grade novel KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON, CHILDREN. For those of you living out of the United States, you will have a chance to win an e-book and a signed bookmark. For those within the 50 states, you have the chance to win a signed copy of the physical book.

I’m keeping it simple…simply comment about why you would like to have this book or a question you have for Sharon. I’ll enter all the names into an online random name picker to choose who wins. The name will be drawn on September 26th at 9pm Eastern Time Zone.

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Book Review: GETTING STARTED by Amy Young

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GETTING STARTED helps cross-cultural workers manage their first year better. It is written with missionaries in mind, but I believe that anyone that is moving abroad would benefit. Amy doesn’t just use her experience from living in China, but the experiences of countless others from around the world. GETTING STARTED touches on so many preconceived ideas a person can have about culture or language, to even daily living and working with teammates. Amy doesn’t gloss over the difficult, nor does she spotlight the magnificent. She keeps it real. GETTING STARTED isn’t a self-help book in that if you follow each step perfectly your first year will be a breeze. Amy is passionate about helping people be successful their first year – but from reading this book you will realize that her idea of success is not a year where everything is smooth, easy, and problem free. That’s just not how life works. I think Amy summarizes the idea of this book best in her introduction, “This book is designed to help you begin to release the ‘shoulds’ and allow yourself to be wherever you are in the process of adjusting to the field.”

My Take: I believe that this is an important topic for missionaries or Christian workers going on the field – or even those who have been on the field for that matter. It would be a great resource for sending organizations to have as they prepare their people to go out.

Amy also has a new website, Global Trellis, that offers help for cross-cultural workers. Check it out here.

Letting Go…

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PC geralt via Pixabay

The time of year has come for the expat communities of the world – that time of ebb and flow of suitcases, boxes and RAFT building. At times it may feel more like emotional waves crashing, letting go of a child who graduates can be specially daunting.

As a mom of a son who will soon begin his year of “lasts”, this has been on my heart: how will I let him go with grace and peace?

This week I am guest writing for Multicultural Kid Blogs about how to let our kids go as they prepare to leave “home”. Click here to read more.

How the Rapids Showed me Beauty

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Life can be like a journey down a winding river. Rivers can be calm and smooth, but usually along the way rapids appear. Life is like that. Sometimes the rapids are exciting and fun, like moving overseas. Other times they are downright frightening, like an unwanted diagnosis.

During those rapids I find myself wanting and sometimes even desperately trying to paddle back upstream away from it all. I long for an easier way, but usually there is no other way. And in the end, I find that God uses those hard situations in my life to transform me.

Fifteen years ago I found myself at one of those bends.

This week I’m a guest writer at Velvet Ashes. You can read more about my story and the lessons I learned by clicking here.

 

*PC Credit: Free-photos via pixaby

Sisters

I grew up with my extended family. Every Sunday after church all my aunts, uncles, and cousins would meet at my grandparent’s farm. My grandmother prepared what most people would consider a Thanksgiving dinner every week – mashed potatoes, homemade noodles, roast or turkey… My mom has continued this tradition with my siblings and their growing families. It is amazing to go back to. After my sisters and I clean up the table we sit with our steaming hot coffee and catch up. I love those moments.

I live too far to do that every week. In fact, it sometimes doesn’t happen in a calendar year. That’s just how home assignments go.

But, God has been good to me. He has provided “family” in every location we’ve moved. 20190306_092308He has provided “sister’s in Christ”. I just returned from a ladies retreat where I got to see some of those sisters and to be honest I adopted a few more. It was a retreat for English speaking Christians here on the island. It wasn’t affiliated with a specific sending organization, nor was it focused on a specific nationality. It was beautiful.

  • God’s girls hiking in the mountains together.
  • God’s girls playing “Catch Phrase” together.
  • God’s girls singing His praises together.
  • God’s girls crying together over some tough circumstances.
  • God’s girls giggling in bed like two schoolgirls trying to be quiet so they don’t get in trouble from their mother.

God’s girls are sisters. He has no boundaries in his family. There is no nationality boundary. No racial boundary. No age boundary. No ability/disability boundary. My sisters in Christ are a beautiful bunch of gals.

How about you? Have you been able to find “sisters” among the women you meet where you are located?

 

Book Review: BLACK DOVE WHITE RAVEN by Elizabeth Wein

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Audience/Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction

Summary: Teo and Emilia are friends from birth. After a bird strike during a flying stunt performance by their mothers they become siblings. Em’s mother wants to follow her late best friend’s wishes: to raise Teo in a place where he won’t be judged by the color of his skin, the country where his father was from. Set in the 1930’s Em’s mother makes the decision to move to Ethiopia where she can raise her white daughter alongside her now black son in the peaceful countryside. But, as Italy moves to invade and war brews, both children, now in their teens, have to make a decisions about home and loyalty.

My Take: This book has so many layers to it. It is definitely a TCK/CCK book. Teo is half Ethopian and Emilia is half Italian. There are inner struggles of “home”, which is something most TCK/CCKs understand. Ms. Wein weaves prejudice into the lives of the children, but also into the lives of their mothers. It is just a good book that will make you think deeper about issues that are relevant today. As I read the bio of Elizabeth Wein, I came to realize that she understands the issues of TCKs because she was raised abroad and is now living abroad as well. I highly recommend this book not just because of the TCK/CCK issues that Ms. Wein attempts to tackle, but because it really deals with issues that are relevant today.

Your Turn: What have you been reading? Share in the comments below. I’m always looking for new titles to read.

Celebrating Christmas with CCKs

IMG_20181205_215554_058It is the night before St. Nikolaus Tag, which my husband celebrated as a young German boy growing up in Taiwan. Even though I didn’t grow up celebrating like this we have made this part of our Christmas tradition with our own kids. Tonight the girls cleaned their shoes and in the morning they will find some chocolate and treats inside.

Celebrating the holidays with family from different cultures is interesting. I was allowed to write “Holidays for Cross-Cultural Kids” for Multicultural Kid Blogs. If you’d like to read more about what a CCK is or other ideas on this topic please read more here.

 

“Where is Home?”: the battle to be content

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I have struggled on and off with being content. I don’t mean where I am in life, or how my life is going (though, there are days), but the struggle of “Where is home?”. I’m not really talking about the same struggle that Third Culture Kids talk about. My struggle is not owning a home. Maybe this comes from all the painting I’ve been doing in home #….. too many to count or remember. After a year here, I think I might actually be seeing the bottom of the paint can for now. With every stroke of the brush I wonder how long I will actually get to enjoy the fruits of my labor. Will we just have one more year before forced to pack again? That is the struggle of many who live overseas. No home to call our own.

It doesn’t help when I see photos or hear about friends buying a home.

It doesn’t help that my kids are getting older and I’m not sure where they will “come back home” to (though that is their TCK issues they will have to work out).

It doesn’t help that if we could buy a home, I have NO idea where it would even be or should be? Taiwan? Germany? US? The options are endless and overwhelming.

Sometimes these pesky questions makes me feel homeless. Not in the sense that I don’t have a place to live, because I do. We’ve been able to rent places for the past 20 years. And while I’m thankful for that, we have nothing to call our own. I know I’ve talked to other luggage carrying expats toting kids around the globe who have had this same feeling. Then I’ve talked with other expat friends who have bought a house, but don’t live in it. They have the stress of keeping it up while away. They are also feeling discontent.

Which make me wonder if my real problem is just being content. Period.

Why do we feel discontent? I won’t go in to great depths here, because the answers vary from person to person – but I think it all boils down to what we think about and focus our thoughts on.

I will never be content with myself or where I am IF my focus, my outlook on life is on myself.

But…

When I look at who God is and marvel at all He has done – I am content. Content with life. Content with the home I’m allowed to live in. Rejoice with my friends. Excited to live in a new place. Joyful.

When I’m content with God, then my whining self turns into gratitude and joy. And folks, that is who I want to be no matter where I live.

Today’s post is linked up with Velvet Ashes: Content.

  • PC: nikosapelaths via pixabay.com

 

Language Learning and Special Needs…a conversation starter

RaisingTCKs for Mulitcultural Kid Blogs

My children are bilingual, including my daughter who has Cri-du-Chat Syndrome, a disability that affects her mentally and physically. She’s not the only bilingual person with special needs, though. In fact, I know a young adult with Down Syndrome who is trilingual. And I read about another boy with Autism Spectrum Disorder who speaks at least four languages. This goes against the belief of many educators and therapists that children with special needs should focus on one language only. Most of the research focuses on three specialty groups: Specific Language Impairment (SLI), Down Syndrome (DS), and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), but the researcher still believes that other disabilities can learn a second language as well. This is great news for CCKs (Cross-Cultural Kids) and TCK s(Third-Culture Kids) who have special needs and their families who are raising them.

My daughter is fairly non-verbal, but she is able to communicate in both English and Chinese. She uses American Sign Language (ASL), speaks simple words in both languages, and sometimes uses communication boards. We speak mainly English at home and she goes to a Taiwanese special education school where they speak Chinese. Honestly, like most Third Culture Kids she is comfortable living in both worlds. It’s part of who she is.

But, what about just teaching a child with special needs a new language? Are there any benefits? Join the conversation over at Multicultural Kid Blogs where I share some benefits I’ve noticed.

Goodbyes and Skies – Signs of Letting Go

20180811_182558In books, movies, and even in TV shows the weather gives the audience a glimpse into the mood of the story. Other times it is the foreshadowing of something about to happen. Writers do that to captivate their readers. This past week, God used this same technique for me.

Last weekend we took our son to the dorm. The day before, we spent the afternoon at the beach. Heading into town we witnessed the sunset over the mountains. It was the perfect scene to a perfect day. I posted on my IG account, “Reminder of God’s continuing handiwork in creation, in me, in my family”. It brought me hope knowing that even though the next day would require me to “let go”, He would still be there working in my son, working in me.

The next day we drove up and over mountains to campus. We had decided to spend the night, which I believe helped me to truly be excited for him. I needed to be excited for him. It was exciting. He has a great place to live, a good roommate, wonderful dorm parents, and a great school to attend. What more could a parent ask for their child who will attend boarding school? It’s funny because I don’t remember the weather that day. It seems to be a blur.

But I remember what it was like the day we left…

Dark clouds loomed over us right before lunch. We said our goodbyes. He left us in the parking lot; walking back to the cafeteria with his backpack slung over his shoulder. We slumped down in the car and buckled up. As we pulled out, the first drops of rain began. I used my finger to wipe my damp cheek. The wipers swiped at the damp windows. As we merged onto the freeway, the heavens opened and the rain dumped its heavy load. We almost had to pull over. My heart felt the same crushing, drowning feeling. Goodbyes just stink, but I didn’t have time to sink to the abyss emotionally because I was co-pilot and had a job to do: keep the passengers quiet and help watch for traffic. It was seriously raining that hard.

Thirty minutes later the sky opened up like a dark blanket being lifted off our car. The mountains were once again in focus. The white clouds hung around the valleys and decorated the sky. It was gorgeous.

Hope returned.

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Isn’t that like life though, or shouldn’t it be? There are going to be days that are tough. Days we don’t want to go through. Days we don’t think we can get through.

We must get on the airplane and leave loved ones behind.

We can’t always take our pets with us when we move. Sometimes they die.

Our child breaks their foot two weeks before soccer season begins.

A typhoon (or insert tornado, fire, etc) destroys the scrapbooks, the photos. Memories lost.

Kids grow up and move on to university.

A diagnosis is learned.

But, we don’t have to stay in that dark and hopeless place. There is a path to where the sun shines down and the mountains can be seen from the valleys below.

Just as my husband kept moving forward in the torrential rain, we can keep moving forward. Sometimes it is a slow trudge, but it’s forward.

He kept his eyes on the road ahead of him. We keep our eyes on the path that is set before us (Heb 12:1).

We bring our focus on the One who put us on that path, who created the road, who created us. And we give thanks and praise to Him (Heb. 12:2, Phil. 4:4-7).

It is then, that the view becomes clearer and we are able to give more thanks. And as our hearts become grateful, the view only becomes more spectacular.

The road hasn’t changed.

No, he is there and I am here.

His first game was this weekend (though cancelled due to rain). There.

I am here. Still here.

The circumstance hasn’t changed. It won’t.

But, I get a phone call from the boy. He sounds happy. And I’m grateful.

Grateful for the age that I live in where he can pick up a phone and call.

Grateful that friends sneak photos of him on campus and message them to me within seconds after taking said photo.

Thankful that he gets to do something he loves to do.

Joy is found in the gratitude.

Your Turn: Have you ever noticed that the weather or the sky seems to reflect the mood or the circumstance that you are going through at the moment? Share your moment in the comments below.