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Pacific Book Review

Our ability to traverse tragedy and painful struggles stems from many emotions and character traits. Strength, courage, and resilience all play a large role in the journey to overcome great struggles, but one emotion that works hard to keep us all together during these times is love. The love of a parent, of a friend, of a new romance, or of a sibling can keep us motivated and full of hope in times of darkness. As Marc Chagall once said, “In our life there is a single color, as on an artist’s palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of love.”

In author James Channing Shaw & Cal Orey’s The Caged Bird Sings: A Young Man’s Untold War Chronicles, the authors convey a unique coming of age story set during WWII. Living in war-torn and German-occupied France during the war, Benjamin Cohen is a thirteen year old boy who dreams of taking up the art of the carillon bells. A young Jewish boy with a fascination with an instrument in a Catholic Church, the young man pursues his passion, despite the concerns of his parents and the resistance of his siblings. Yet as he learns and grows in his skill, he must also grow as a person far quicker than most, as the horrors of the war reign down on him and his family, and the bonds and love he shares with his parents, his siblings, and a young woman in the church he grows fond of, begin to take on a much more impactful meaning than he thought possible.

A truly moving and strong story of facing injustice, the horrors of war, and having to discover who you are as a person amidst all that turmoil, this was a moving and engaging read. The authors perfectly layer the narrative with personal character growth and memorable familial bonds that will be both familiar and relatable to readers as they delve into this story. The setting and tone of the narrative become just as much of a character in this story as the protagonist himself, the city and the haunting nature of the German occupation filling the novel with dread and tension that perfectly captures the horrors of that war.

This is an absolutely perfect read for those who enjoy history, especially WWII history and want to see that incorporated more into coming of age and YA style genres of storytelling. As a fan of history and these genres, I found myself entertained and emotionally invested in these characters and their stories, and the tragic realities of what families faced in that war will have readers tearful while the hero’s journey that Benjamin goes on will leave them with a sense of hope many struggled to hold onto during that time.

A remarkable, thoughtful, and heartfelt read, authors James Channing Shaw and Cal Orey’s The Caged Bird Sings: A Young Man’s Untold War Chronicles is a fantastic new take on the young adult, coming of age narrative with a historical fiction twist. The balance of tragedy and hope the authors infuse into this narrative are both haunting and realistic to the horrors experienced by the Jewish people during WWII, while the character’s growth is amazing to read throughout the emotional final pages of this book.