Thursday, November 21, 2019

Book Beginnings: When a Toy Dog Became a Wolf and Shedding Our Stars



I have two books today, both Holocaust memoirs:

You are seven years old and have never known your mother to be anything but disciplined and in control, even when interrogated at gunpoint, so why is she suddenly marching through the house flipping on every light switch?

-- When a Toy Dog Became a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew: A Memoir by Hendrika de Vries.

Hendrika de Vries was a child in Holland when her father was deported to a Nazi POW camp and her mother joined the Resistance. Her new memoir tells the story of the tragic events of Amsterdam during WWII, as seen through the eyes of a young girl, and reflects on the wisdom she gained from her experience.

I was only five years old when Hitler became Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933.

-- Shedding Our Stars: The Story of Hans Calmeyer and How He Saved Thousands of Families Like Mine by Laureen Nussbaum with Karen Kirtley.

Laureen Nussbaum and her family lived in Amsterdam during the German occupation of the Netherlands. Hans Calmeyer was a lawyer appointed by the Germans to adjudicate "doubtful cases" of people trying to leave the country. He saved at least 3,700 Jews from deportation to Nazi camps, including Nussbaum and her family.

Laureen Nussbaum was a childhood friend of Anne Frank in Amsterdam. She was a professor of Foreign Languages and Literature at Portland State University. Since retiring, she lectures on the Holocaust, Anne Frank, and her experience during World War II.

Both these new memoirs are published by She Writes Press, one of my favorite independent publishers. I admire their business model and their impressive book list! The Spring 2020 Catalog, as well as back list titles, are available on the She Writes Press website.

Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

EARLY BIRDS & SLOWPOKES: This weekly post goes up Thursday evening for those who like to get their posts up and linked early on. But feel free to add a link all week.

SOCIAL MEDIA: If you are on Twitter, Instagram, or other social media, please post using the hash tag #BookBeginnings. I try to follow all Book Beginnings participants on whatever interweb sites you are on, so please let me know if I have missed any and I will catch up. Please find me on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter.


TIE IN: The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice is a natural tie in with this event and there is a lot of cross over, so many people combine the two. The idea is to post a teaser from page 56 of the book you are reading and share a link to your post. Find details and the Linky for your Friday 56 post on Freda’s Voice.


From When a Toy Dog Became a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew:

But from the biblical stories my mother shared with us, it seem to me that people had been doing horrible things to each other forever and ever. I asked her why people couldn’t learn to be kinder to each other.

From Shedding Our Stars:

On the heels of the relocation ordinances came the decree that as of May 3, 1942, all Jews above the age of six had to wear a yellow Star of David whenever they left their home. The star, with the word Jood (Jew) printed on it in Hebrew-like characters, had to be sewn with small stitches onto the left front of outer garments.


  1. Hi Gilion,

    Two very full-on reads this week. I wonder, are you planning to read them back to back, or give yourself a short break between them? I can see the merits of both options - difficult choice!

    I am not much of a non-fiction reader I'm afraid, however purely from an aesthetic cover art point of view and based on the synopsis you shared, I was more drawn towards 'When A Toy Dog Became A Wolf', which was then further borne out by readers comments on Amazon and Goodreads, who seem to have preferred the more personal account of this travesty of justice.

    I hope that you take something away from each of the books and thanks for sharing and hosting :)


  2. These books look interesting. Enjoy your current read!

  3. Definitely intense reads this week! Shedding our Stars sounds like one that I would enjoy. Have a great weekend. :)

  4. When a Toy Dog Became a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew is a heck of a mouthful to say, but the book sounds fantastic (That sounds weird to say. I mean, as fantastic as a Holocaust memoir can be?) I'm going to look that one up. I love the opening and the snippet.

  5. I love the 56 from When A Toy Dog Became A Wolf And The Moon Broke Curfew! So very true!
    I added you to the linky. I do not have a post this week though. Happy American Thanksgiving weekend!

  6. They both sound interesting.

  7. I admire your choices, but they are a bit heavy for me right now. I'm more of an escapist reader. My book beginning this week is a long short story from The Isabel Dalhousie Series by Alexander McCall Smith: "The Perils of Morning Coffee".


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