More Engaging Classrom Activities for High School Students

9 06 2020

Author, Sandra Arthur, has created four classroom activities for educators’ use.

 

English Exercise:

Write a Book Review on Against My Will: Lithuania to Freedom

A book review is a descriptive and critical evaluation of a book or novel. It offers a brief summary of the contents and provides an impartial assessment of the contents and generally includes a viewpoint on whether the reader recommends the book/novel to other readers.

Use these headings to write your report:


Book Title and name of Author:
Category:
What is the book about?
Summary of the novel?
Book Review :

As you write your own book review, consider the following questions:-
Is the writing style clear and effective?
Was the story interesting?
Does the book raise issues or topics for discussion?
Did you enjoy the book?
Would you recommend it to others?





More Engaging Classrom Activities for High School Students: English and Art

9 06 2020

Author, Sandra Arthur, has created four classroom activities for educators’ use.

 

English and Art

Read Against my Will: Lithuania to Freedom

1. Design an advertisement for this book.

2. Create a comic strip story that captures the key moments and plot of this novel.

3. Design an alternative book cover (see original design below).

 

 

The author would love to see your designs.  Feel free to post them on her Facebook page at SandraArthurBooks.  She would also be delighted to judge any school competitions based on her art challenges!

 





More Engaging Classrom Activities for High School Students: English and History

9 06 2020

Author Sandra Arthur has created four classroom activities for educators’ use.

English and History

Assign students to read Against My Will: Lithuania to Freedom.


1. Choose two important people from WW2 history and find out three facts for each person.
Churchill_V_sign_HU_55521
Example, Sir Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels. Also, consider Nancy Wake, Lt Reba Whittle, Jan Karski.

 

 

 


2. Choose two roles performed by people during WW2 and find out three facts about their work. Women's_Land_Army

Example: Air Raid Warden, Soldier, Nurse, Women’s Land Army, Code Breaker.

 

 

 

 

3. Choose three events that took place during WW2 and find out more details about these key activities.
Approaching_Omaha
Example: D-Day, Invasion of Poland 1939, Operation Barbarossa, Rationing, Blitzkrieg, Holocaust.

 

 


4. Find three examples of WW2 poster designs that were used for different propaganda messaging. Nazi_propaganda_poster_in_Lithuania

Summarise the purpose and message for each poster and whether you think they were effective in their promotion.

 

 

 

 

Classroom Activities: Copyright 2020 Sandra SC Arthur

 

Images: Thanks to Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons  Public Domain.

-Sir Winston Churchill

– Women’s Land Army Poster

-German propaganda poster in Lithuania WW2.

– Approaching Omaha.





More Engaging Classroom Activities for High School Students. English Comprehension.

9 06 2020

Author, Sandra Arthur has created four Classroom Activity Sheets for educators to use:

 

English Comprehension

 

A.   Read Against My Will: Lithuania to Freedom and answer the following questions to test your comprehension.

B.   Discuss and debate the responses submitted.

1. Which three facts did you learn by reading this story?


2. Why could Artur no longer attend school?


3. How did Oskar avoid being conscripted by the Nazis?


4. Which city did the Zylinski family move to in 1944?


5. How did Artur get to Britain?


6. What did Oskar give his mother?


7. Where was the Polish Freedom Forces based in the UK?


8. What work did Kazimierz hope to do after WW2?


9. Why were Artur and his friends disappointed after WW2?

 

Photo: Wikipedia – Public Domain image.

Lithuanian_soldier_in_vilnius_1939.

Polish Freedom Forces 1941.

Classroom Activities: Copyright 2020 Sandra SC Arthur





Engaging Classroom Activities for High School Students

7 06 2020

Educators are always seeking ideas on how to develop classroom activities that bring some interest and dare I say, excitement into their lessons. My new historical fiction novel, Against My Will: Lithuania to Freedom should appeal on many counts to teen readers.

Untold History: Little has been shared in the West about Polish and Lithuanian child soldiers and the enormous impact the Soviet and Nazi invasions had on these countries during WW2.

Heroic: No spoiler here, but there are some daring exploits to keep you on the edge of your seat. Students can decide if the protagonist is heroic or reckless.

Heart-breaking: It’s a roller coaster ride for both the teen boy who is separate from his family but also his mother who is stuck behind the iron curtain.  Will the family ever be reunited?

Education: It highlights how against all the odds, securing an education can open up many opportunities.

Once this book – or other novels based in a similar timeframe are selected – here are some interesting classroom activities that can be assigned individually or tackled in small groups.

 

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES

1. Create a comic strip story that captures the key moments and plot of the above novel.

2. Which three facts did you learn by reading this story?

3. Design an alternative book cover.

4. Write a book review. Would you recommend it to others?  If yes, explain why.  If not, say why not.

5. Choose two important or famous people from WW2 history and find out three facts for each person.

Example, Sir Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler.  Also, consider Nancy Wake, Lt Reba Whittle, Jan Karski.

6. Choose two roles performed by people during WW2 and find out three facts about their work.

Example: Air Raid Warden, Soldier, Nurse, Land Army, Code Breakers.

7. Choose three events that took place during WW2 and find out more details about these events.

8. Design an advert for this book.

9.   Write an alternative final chapter to the novel.

 



Would love to hear back from any teacher that might be interested to use these classroom activity ideas.



Please visit my Facebook page: SandraArthurBooks to keep up to date with my news, links and trivia!

 

 

Photo from :Book Cover: Against My Will :Lithuania to Freedom

 

Wikipedia.  in the Public Domain: File: Churchill V sign HU 55521.jpg

 

 





The untold story behind the history of the novel: Against My Will: Lithuania to Freedom

4 06 2020

Little has been shared in the west about Polish and Lithuanian child soldiers and the enormous impact the Soviet and Nazi invasions had on these countries during World War 2. In the context of these catastrophic events, one family fought to survive and remain together. The new historical fiction novel, Against My Will: Lithuania to Freedom, describes the dramatic events that shaped their struggle, and the rollercoaster ride that not only faced the youth separated from his family but the plight, despair and heart-break faced by his mother, behind the iron curtain.

Since the launch of this novel, the author has received many enquiries from readers asking about the real history and story that inspired the novel. She was invited by a public library representative in Kaunas, Lithuania to produce a video that provided more background to her research and to learn more about the family that faced these hardships during WW2 and post-war era.

For the past 15 years, the author has been researching the early life story of her husband’s father. She never met him, but he lived an interesting and courageous life, one that she felt should be shared. He grew up in Lithuania and was one of the unlucky youth to be conscripted against his will to work for the German Army during WW2. Much of the history around these conscriptions has been lost in English, due to the Iron Curtain that shut-off contact with the West immediately after the war. Also, few young men who survived felt the need to write down or share their experiences.

Behaving like a detective, the author cobbled together as much information from family, friends and historical reports plus videos and finally wrote and launched her historical fiction novel.

If you have an interest in WW2, the plight of the Polish/Lithuanian families or simply might be curious about the WW2 era, do take a look at the video! The video includes unseen photography and footage and reminds one of the shocking statistics from this World War.

 

If you’d like to read a preview, you can access the first chapter for free on Amazon.  The ebook is available for the same cost as a cup of coffee and, as one reader recently remarked, far more enjoyable.






Against My Will: Lithuania to Freedom Launch set for VE Day, May 8, 2020

6 05 2020

Did you know during a previous quarantine, Shakespeare wrote Macbeth and King Lear…two of his greatest works of all time? Also, Isaac Newton discovered Calculus and the fundamentals of Gravity during a quarantine!

Victoria-based author, Sandra Arthur has been using the COVID 19 crisis to complete a new novel based on a previously unknown WWII story. The book will be launched on May 8th (on Amazon) to coincide with the 75th WWII Victory in Europe (VE) Day.

Against My Will: Lithuania to Freedom” is a compelling novel that takes place during WWII in Europe and finally closing in Canada.

The plight of ethnic Poles living in Lithuania during World War II has rarely been reported or shared with the world. Many documents and oral histories of the period have been lost and what little information that does exist is not in English.

Victory in Europe day is on hold this year around the world due to COVID-19 despite the importance of marking the 75th anniversary of the war’s end. Poles in WWII constituted the fourth largest group of the Allies, yet they did not participate in the first VE Day Celebration due to political considerations. It was not until 2005 that they were finally given recognition and took lead in the march of that year.

This and many obstacles faced by Eastern bloc men and their families are included in this fast-paced novel. The protagonist in the novel is based on the early life of her father-in-law. He had an extraordinary war-time experience and ended up working as a professor in Canada. Few colleagues and friends knew his back story. 

Although fictionalized, most of the events included in the novel were shared by surviving family members. This oral history, coupled with the author’s extensive fifteen years of research into the period, provides both a dramatic storyline as well as insight into wartime and post-war Europe.

The plot follows one fourteen-year-old Lithuanian school-boy taken from his family by the Nazis to become a child soldier. His ordeal being captured by the Nazis is vividly told as is his later connection with the French resistance forces, the hardship of Prisoner Of War camps and relief in joining the Polish Freedom Fighters.

Meanwhile, his distraught mother faces a rollercoaster journey of heartbreak behind the iron curtain as her husband, and four sons, one by one, meet their death, depart or disappear. What is certain is that all of their lives are shattered, with momentous consequences and there’s no option to turn the clock back.

Sandra’s family will be celebrating VE Day at home dressed in 1940’s fashion, eating WWII based recipes and connecting with relatives in Europe via video calls.












New Historical Fiction : Against My Will : Lithuania to Freedom – VE Day launch 2020

4 05 2020

Did you know during a previous quarantine, Shakespeare wrote Macbeth and King Lear…two of his greatest works of all time?  Isaac Newton also discovered Calculus and the fundamentals of Gravity also during the quarantine!


Well, I’m not in that league, but I’ve been busy during the COVID 19 crisis to complete my new historical fiction novel.  I’m delighted to announce that Against My Will – Lithuania to Freedom – will be launched on VE Day, this Friday, May 8th. 

People have asked where did I get the inspiration for my new book, Against My Will: Lithuania to Freedom. I should start by explaining that I dedicated this book to my late father-in-law, Artur Zylinski.  We never met, but I wanted to share his extraordinary life story. When I first heard about his amazing early life experience, I felt it was important that it be shared. His ability to face danger with courage and overcome heart-wrenching decisions compelled me to document the history in the hope that one day it might be turned into a film or book.

This was not an easy task as the plight of ethnic Poles living in Lithuania during World War II (WWII) has rarely been shared with the world. Many documents and oral histories of the period have been lost and what little information that does exist is not in English.

I was therefore required to act as a detective to dig around on the internet, seek out books and reach out to family members around the world or indeed to anyone that might recall elements of his story or history.

All the information did not immediately come to light and it has taken over fifteen years to fully discover important parts of the puzzle.

The first break-through was meeting one of my husband’s cousins whose mother had been an important judge in Poland. She had an encyclopedic memory for names and dates. It was due to her amazing ability to recall locations, family names and events that kick-started the early stages of discovery. She did not speak English and so I’m thankful for another of my husband’s cousin who was able to translate from Polish to French and then to English!

Next, I travelled to Poland to attend a family wedding. As I later recognised, it was my ‘good fortune’ during the visit to hurt my back.  Due to an injury, I was unable to go sight-seeing with my family. Instead, I was invited to stay with a relative of my husband who was a doctor in Gdansk. Not only was she able to help me with my back pain but she provided details and materials that greatly assisted me to complete another part of the puzzle. My father-in-law’s brother had died a bachelor and had left all his photographs and documents to her.  An old box from her storage room was like a treasure trove. Inside she found school reports, long-forgotten letters and photographs. This was an important historical find for my husband and his family. In addition, to supplying these lost items she was able to identify many people in the old photographs and provide many stories from the WW2 and post-war period.

Later other family members were able to share details from different periods of his life.

Finally, following the passing of my mother-in-law, eighteen months ago, the linchpin to solving the complete story was discovered. A private diary that had been written by my father-in-law together with some photographs that he had treasured throughout the war turned up in a basement storage box.

Although some parts of the story were still missing, I felt I had sufficient material to develop a fictionalised story that could be loosely based on his early life.

Initially, I took a stab at writing an outline for a TV series or film. Having completed an early draft I recognised no-one would be interested to develop it. – especially as it would require a very large budget to do it any justice. Furthermore, I was not kidding myself that as a totally unknown writer, with zero screenwriting experience… it was a non-starter from the beginning.

Despite not having any experience to write historical fiction, I decided to give it my best shot.

I researched as much information as possible and spent hours checking out historical records, videos anything I could find to help me paint a picture of what challenges he would have faced. Much information is missing and this fuelled my desire to complete the task.

After six months of writing from the heart, I finally completed the novel. I know that many other young men of his generation from Eastern Europe faced a similar fate.    I chose VE Day for the date to release the novel in ebook and paperback format.   It is my hope that by sharing this unknown story that it serves as a tribute to all those unknown lost generation heroes. 

This book not only honours the young men of the East but also the courageous people who worked in the French Resistance, the fearless men in the Polish Forces and others who did not make it to the end of World War Two.  Without those brave and kind souls, my father-in-law would not have survived.

Overview of the novel:

Against My Will: Lithuania to Freedom – follows the hardship, heartbreak and heroism of a young Polish-Lithuanian man and his strong mother. It is a bold new novel based on a true story, that spans a generation, a world war and six countries.

The plot follows one fourteen-year-old Lithuanian school-boy taken from his family by the Nazis to become a child soldier. His ordeal being captured by the Nazis is vividly told as is his later dalliance with the French resistance forces, the hardship of Prisoner Of War (POW) camps and relief in joining the Polish Freedom Fighters.

Meanwhile, his distraught mother faces a rollercoaster journey of heartbreak behind the iron curtain as her husband, and four sons, one by one, meet their death, depart or disappear.

 

Who will survive? Will the boy see his mother again? How will he escape? Can the family be reunited?

What is certain is that all of their lives are shattered, with momentous consequences, and there’s no option to turn the clock back.

 

Available as an ebook or paperback at Amazon.

 

 





Great Adventure Book for Boys : Cpl Ron’s Borneo Warrior Rescue

4 05 2020

Google closed down its site last year, where I had placed all my support content for my range of Sandra Arthur Books. Sadly, I missed the deadline to save my web pages and thus have lost years of material. For those that missed the launch, here is a reminder about my fun, fiction book: Corporal Ron’s Borneo Warrior Rescue.

There are very few fun, boys books and as a mother of twin boys, I wanted to fill that gap!  This is an adventure story that should appeal to boys aged 10+, as well as eco-warriors. It is a unique, fast-paced story about a fascinating country and a long-forgotten ‘secret’ war.

Featuring Cpl Ron, a Royal Air Force radio operator, working amongst the Dayaks of Borneo, the story follows the perilous mission that Ron and two young warriors undertake through the rainforest. Along the way, they must each face challenges while learning about the other cultures and the ways of the jungle.

This story is also a great introduction to one of our rare rainforests: Borneo and its people, flora and fauna. This well-researched war-time novel has drama, wit and fun.  Added bonus:  Information panels, at the end of each section, highlight the plight of the endangered species such as orangutans. The story is a work of fiction but was written as a tribute to the author’s father. 

Where did the idea for the book come from?

The inspiration to write this book was (a) to serve as a tribute to my late father, Ronald AK Chidgey who served in the RAF for 25 years and who did indeed work in Borneo and (b) to weave in environmental information about the unique country of Borneo in order to highlight the plight of the orangutan.

GirlWhy did you write this book?

Beyond making a tribute to my late father I wanted to address the lack of good material for boys to read. I also wanted to raise funds for charity and I wanted to highlight the plight of the animals living in Borneo.

Taking on board the notion that many boys are typically reluctant readers, the story features soldiers, warriors, and follows an exciting, fast-paced jungle adventure. It includes facts and statistic about flora and fauna. It also includes a variety of vintage photographs of helicopters, animals and warriors thereby I hope checking off all the correct boxes to appeal to boys.

For charity support  – I chose to support The UK Orangutan Appeal and Help for Heroes.

What genre does your book fall under?

Junior fiction

Note: The book received positive feedback from adults as well!

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I conducted a lot of research to get all the background facts correct – location, names, environment etc. Sadly my father had died just before I commenced this project, so I was unable to ask him for a reminder of all his adventures. I, therefore, tried to find people who may have know my Dad or conducted a similar role in the RAF to secure more information. Also, I was anxious to ensure that the information about the unique rainforest, the secret war and the life of the Borneo Dayaks was as factually correct as possible. I originally wrote the manuscript in a matter of weeks, working night and day. It sat around for a couple of years and then I dusted it off and added and edited it for another three or four months.  It turned out a better book as I had time to mature, reflect and make some hard edits!


I hope readers of all ages will find this a vivid, informative and enjoyable book.

Cpl Ron’s Borneo Warrior Rescue Available as a paperback or ebook (PDF) at Amazon and Lulu websites.





Heather Nova: The Siren Sings

13 04 2020

 

By Richard Arthur
This article was previously published in 1998 – various music magazines in Canada as well as online sites.
 

Heather Nova feels that she’s finally arrived.   Her first single from her just-released third albumImage-4 contains the lines “There’ve been changes beyond my dreams, everyone wants me to sing”.   On the eve of her latest tour, and with the release of a sparkling new album, journalist Richard Arthur met with Nova in Bristol to discuss the new record, her approach to songwriting and her live performances.

So Heather Nova is back, with a new record label, V2 — Richard Branson’s new enterprise, and exuding a new confidence.   “On Oyster, I was dealing with some pretty painful stuff from the past” Nova says, referring to her previous album. “The whole process of making Oyster was helping me to find some self-esteem”.  Now with her new album, Siren, she has moved on to new themes of contentment, and healing, while the bitterness previously present has become a kind of yearning.

Four years have passed since the release of Oyster, and Nova has re-emerged to tell the world she’s alive. The Bermuda-raised, London resident grew up living mainly on a boat around Bermuda and the Caribbean.  With Siren, she returns to her island roots:  “With my last record I toured for almost two years, so I was pretty beat after that.  I just needed to go somewhere and be on my own.  So I went home and rented a cottage on the water and just wrote for a couple of months”.

This result is a glowing, evocative new album brimming with sea references.  Certainly not a concept album, but with the packaging and the swirling sonic effects used, Nova creates a flowing, graceful atmosphere.  However, there is a clear evolution from the ephemeral sound of her first album Glow Stars, or the bitterness of Oyster.  These three albums show a progression towards more accessible less introspective songs, with “London Rain”, leading off Siren, possibly her most radio-friendly yet.  “I would never write a song specifically to be a single.  But that was one of those songs where we just went into the studio and started playing it, and that’s what evolved.”

However, the lyrics are no less personal than previous material, and in fact, have become more direct. Nova says: “they are completely personal. Songwriting is something I do because it’s often a way of finding something out or finding a way through something.  So I do it because I need to and because I enjoy it”.

After growing up in Bermuda she went to college in New England studying film.  During film projects, she discovered that her real passion was songwriting and poetry.   “I finished college and decided to get into music.  I made a demo tape, but I just had no idea how the music industry worked.   I was in New York and I thought:  maybe I’ll try to get a record deal today.  So I went to Columbia records — looked up the address on the back of a CD – and didn’t get past the receptionist.”

Image-1Decamping to England, she found a receptive audience for her engaging, passionate songs. “I always wanted to go to London because I’m from Bermuda, which is British, and I had a curiosity about England because there’s so much good music coming out of there.”

Soon after, her first album, Glow Stars, came out in 1993 on Butterfly/Big Life records.  It is a rather spacey affair, at times sounding like Joni Mitchell, the Sundays or Jane Sibery, but never quite breaking into the perfect song that you know she’s capable of.  “My Fidelity” and “Spirit in You” are both close, while other songs showcase her undulating voice and fragile, troubled poetry.  The album shimmers, but it is as though you’re looking at her through a smoked glass – there is always a distance and lack of clarity.

On Oyster, the troubled relationship hinted at in Glow Stars, rises up to engulf most of the album and the glass is torn away.  The album starts more directly with the electric guitar-driven  “Walk this World”, whose chorus “I want you to come and walk this world with me” takes on potent sexuality when performed live.  “Blue Black” and “Island” both rage bitterly at an unseen lover.  A theme that infects most of the songs on the album.

Oyster was a polished affair, well-produced and exhibiting a more varied range of styles than Glow Stars.  “Walk this World” became a single from the album, and “Maybe an Angel” was a crowd favourite with its gentle introduction that then bursts into soaring guitar feedback at the climax.

Now with Siren, Nova has taken a different approach to recording, leading to a more direct confident album with presence. “The difference in my approach to making the record was what I learned from all the live gigs: there is an element that you shouldn’t try to control when you’re making music.  Oyster was more control and everything in its place production-wise.   With this record, I wanted to just go in the room, start playing the songs, and see what happened”.

In addition, she worked with a number of different musicians in different studios and has used more diverse arrangements including samplers, strings and other instruments:  “I used some different keyboards for the first time:  piano, Hammond organ and some Rhodes.  I decided to experiment with different things.  Also, I wanted the rhythms to be more prominent in the music.”

Siren moves through a gamut of styles and themes from the bouncy chiming guitar-driven, “London Rain”, the powerful rock of ancestral-memory hymn “I’m the Girl”, the contented sweep of “Widescreen”, to the piano, string, and synth-based “Heart and Shoulder”.   The Oyster theme of love and painful loss still rears its head, “There’s stuff left in your psyche” says Nova, but some songs actually sound happy.

“Valley of Sound” has Nova paying sweet homage to a favourite songwriter.  While “I’m the Girl“  lyrically is a broader, more metaphysical approach to the same topic covered in Meredith Brook’s “Bitch”.  “Heart and Shoulder” sounds not unlike a Joshua-Tree era U2 track, with its bass-line, guitar arpeggios and spacious production.  But the melancholy returns in “Winterblue”, where the love that fills her entire being also has its dark side. The strangely threatening “Make You Mine” is reminiscent of PJ Harvey’s “C’mon Billy”.

As evidenced on Oyster, Nova has a great grasp of dynamics:  knowing when to pare the music down to vocal and acoustic guitar only, and when to bring in the rage of a squealing guitar or just the right touch of melancholy through cello and string arrangements.  The introduction of new instruments into her sound has broadened the textures of the music, without losing her distinctiveness.

Live, Heather Nova songs become even more expansive soundscapes, often building from her acoustic guitar to a full-on screaming noise-fest.  Aided and abetted by a range of musicians, almost always including a cellist as well as an electric guitar, bass and drums, she allows the songs to generate their own momentum.  “I just try to get inside the songs,” she says of her own live performance.

Although Nova made a conscious effort to capture a more “live” sound on Siren, through using a variety of musicians and allowing them some reign to bring in variations on the sound, she still finds “there’s something that happens live that you can’t seem to get in a studio.  There’s an intensity that happens in the music that’s hard to capture.”

Given a live setting, Nova’s intimate songs work their full effect, drawing the audience in with their gentleness, only to rebuff again with bursts of full-on noise.  Combined with her atmospheric use of projected ambient slides and movies on the current tour, she is able to create an introspective, yet completely compelling performance.

Image-3Two excellent, but short, albums capture the Nova live experience:  “Live at the Milky Way”, and “Blow”.   The former is the most representative and was recorded live at the Melkweg Amsterdam.  The songs clock in at impressive lengths, each one a monumental performance.  Blow is a less raw affair but introduces some new material.  Unfortunately, they overlap, with half the songs duplicated.

With the release of Siren, new record company attention, and a new tour underway, Heather Nova is ready for the world to sit up and take notice.  As a talented songwriter and singer, and captivating performer, she’ll be ready when it happens.

Catch her live around Europe and North America this summer and Fall.  She plays the Lilith Fair from July 7 to 15.  Siren is released in June.

Selected Discography
Glow Stars            1993

Butterfly/Big Life Blow                1993
Butterfly/Big Life Oyster                1994
Butterfly/Big Life Live From the Milky Way        1995
Work/Sony Siren                1998

 

 
 
 
ARTICLE COPYRIGHT 1998 © RICHARD ARTHUR
Heather Nova – The Siren Sings
 
 
 
 
 
 

Photography: Taken at the live show, Bristol 1998: © Sandra Firman-Arthur