Review of The Voice of Thunder by Mirka Breen

 I am pleased to present the middle grade novel, The Voice of Thunder, by Mirka Breen, who is a member of my picture book critique group.

A little about Mirka will help the reader to understand the place from where this book comes.

Mirka was raised in Jerusalem, Israel. As a 10-year-old fifth grader, she lived through the Six-Day War in 1967. Her book does not glorify the war.

It is this time in Israel’s history that Mirka calls on her memory to write about. Her two protagonists, Mira and Gili, fifth graders who live in the same apartment building, experience some of the same fears and discomforts that Mirka did. They are fictional characters who have their own stories.

“The Voice of Thunder” which the title refers to is the radio station that was broadcast in Hebrew from Cairo, Egypt. Certain Arab states were preparing to invade Israel and the radio broadcasts were aimed to undermine the will of the Israeli people. (Sort of reminds me of Tokyo Rose in World War II).  Mira and Gili liked to listen to the broadcasts even though Gili’s mom called it garbage. The peaceful life of the Jews of Jerusalem had changed with preparations for war. Mira can feel that “The air was charged with tension.”

Each girl reacts to the verbal threats differently.

Gili is exuberant, fearless, and a little fresh. Her home life is more settled and nourishing than Mira’s. She talks back to the radio voice with defiance.

Mira is fearful and a bit nervous. Her father no longer lives at home because he cannot erase the terrors he experienced in Poland during the reign of the Nazis, and her mother is gone much of the time working. Ominous though the story is, there are touches of humor. Mira has certain comforts such as smelling a strand of her own hair and writing in her diary, which she addresses as “Dear, Navel,” acknowledging that she is really talking to herself. She collects discarded toys.

Mira has a secret, which she shares with Gili. An old oak tree in an abandoned yard is a good place to hide little pieces of paper with wishes. Mira is convinced that the two wishes she put there came true. Later, Gili also makes a wish there.

At school, the students were put through safety drills. But when the war comes, Mira knows it is the real thing. “The loud explosions were never part of any drill, and the shaking they caused made her unsteady.” Spending several days and nights in the basement shelter was stuffy, smelly, and unpleasant.

Mira and Gili head a cast of characters who each shine a different spotlight on the many aspects of war and its effect on those involved–from Gili’s very talkative aunt to the batty neighbor to Teacher Edna to the parents of the girls.

Mrs. Breen does not pull her punches when it comes to the way in which war can disrupt lives. Sometimes it even corrupts the innocent. Gili’s Uncle Asher, who joined the army to defend his country, brings Gili a doll that he took from an abandoned Arab home. That makes Gili uncomfortable.

Other philosophical topics are touched on through the questions and thoughts of the two girls. Can the madness of war and hatred be “fixed?”  What constitutes bravery? How does one deal with the spoils of war? How can you tell if God is on your side?

Previously, Jews had not had access to their holiest site, the Western Wall beside the Temple Mount, known as the Wailing Wall, but after the war, they did have. This was one of the most emotional aspects of the winning of the war. On the day the army reached The Wall, Gili’s mother told of the  significance of tucking little notes into the crevices of the wall: “This custom was our way of talking to God and making our thoughts touchable.”

Finally, Mira and Gili and their families visit the Wailing Wall with their wishes and prayers written on little pieces of paper to slip into the cracks of the stones. The girls no longer had to put their notes in the cracks of the oak tree (well, it got blown down in the war, anyway). I have a feeling their wishes came true: Gili’s to someday find the Arab girl who really owns the doll and Mira’s that her dad will come home to stay forever.

It was a happy day when the radio station from Egypt was off the air; Israel had won the war. Now The Voice of Israel could resume broadcasting the news and soft piano music. The Six-Day War silenced “The Voice of Thunder.”

The cover artist, Amie McCracken, captured the spirit of the book by depicting pages that could have come from Mira’s diary along with the photograph (actually one taken by Mirka’s mother, Binah Golek) of two girls looking over a Jerusalem wall.

A beautiful trailer is on Mirka’s website: http://mirkabreen.com/Books.html

WiDo Publishing will publish the book in September 2012, but pre-orders are available now at
 * IndieBound *Barnes & Noble * Amazon* WiDo*
*Your local Independent Bookstore*

***************************

Mirka, it has been a pleasure for me to showcase your middle grade novel, The Voice of Thunder.

Thanks and congratulations.

 

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18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mirka Breen
    Jun 16, 2012 @ 13:18:45

    Oh, my, wow. *Thank you* Barbara for this post and review. I’m honored, and Mira & Gili thank you too…

    Reply

  2. barbarabockman
    Jun 16, 2012 @ 14:22:20

    How nice of you to include Mira and Gili in your thank,s Mirka. I really enjoy your story; it is well written with some beautifully lyrical expressions.

    Reply

  3. melangeofcultures
    Jun 16, 2012 @ 15:07:14

    Wow! This sounds like a great middle grade book. What a story line. Thanks for sharing it Barbara. Huge congrats and good luck to Mira&Gili

    Reply

  4. Diane Kress Hower
    Jun 16, 2012 @ 18:36:21

    Great review Barbara. Mirka, I am looking forward to reading it in print in the fall.

    Reply

  5. susan Hornbach
    Jun 16, 2012 @ 23:18:39

    This book sounded wonderful to me as I read this review earlier today. I ordered it on Amazon, and they will send it in September when it is available. I have to say this was a great review, and I thought I just wanted this book for my library. I’m sure it will be worth the wait. Thanks.

    Reply

    • barbarabockman
      Jun 16, 2012 @ 23:50:01

      Hi Susan,
      Glad you didn’t put this on the back burner where you might forget about it. When it arrives, you will be glad you pre-ordered. Let me know your reaction.

      Reply

  6. Margo Dill
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 00:34:01

    Thanks for sharing! I love middle grade fiction. How exciting that she is in your critique group. It’s always good to see our friends have success! 🙂

    Reply

    • barbarabockman
      Jun 18, 2012 @ 15:06:29

      Hi Margot,
      I agree-middle grade fiction rocks!
      This is a very impressive group I’m with; some experienced and successful writers; I am extremely fortunate and happy to share their successes.

      Reply

  7. tinamcho
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 01:03:25

    Excellent review, Barbara, very thorough! I enjoyed Mirka’s book, too!

    Reply

  8. barbarabockman
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 15:07:47

    Hi Tina,
    I think lots of people are going to enjoy Mirka’s book; it certainly fills a unique niche.

    Reply

  9. Penelope Anne Cole
    Jun 19, 2012 @ 19:41:37

    Hi Barbara,
    This book sounds like a great addition to MG stories. And especially important for kids to see the wider world and learn how kids experience life in other parts of the world. This broadens their horizons and makes sense of the news. Thanks.

    Reply

  10. Ev
    Jun 21, 2012 @ 18:01:52

    Thanks for sharing this great review of Mirka’s book, Barbara. You did a fine job of sharing enough of the story to tantalize potential readers. It’s such a good book, one that can help young people understand and ponder that situations in life aren’t always black and white and that war is incredibly hurtful in any form.

    Reply

  11. Jessica
    Jun 22, 2012 @ 11:10:22

    I loved the trailer

    Reply

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