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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

Robert M. Edsel, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Monuments Men, brings this story to young readers for the first time in a sweeping, dynamic adventure detailing history's greatest treasure hunt. As the most destructive war in history ravaged Europe, many of the world's most cherished cultural objects were in harm's way. The Greatest Treasure Hunt in History recounts the astonishing true story of 11 men and one woman who risked their lives amidst the bloodshed of World War II to preserve churches, libraries, monuments, and works of art that for centuries defined the heritage of Western civilization. As the war raged, these American and British volunteers -- museum curators, art scholars and educators, architects, archivists, and artists, known as the Monuments Men -- found themselves in a desperate race against time to locate and save the many priceless treasures and works of art stolen by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.…

Overall Book Review:

The Monuments Men, by Robert M. Edsel, is the story of brave Allied soldiers who left comfortable jobs in the private sector – as artists, art historians, museum curators, and architects – in order to save the cultural treasures of western civilization. Many of these masterpieces of art and architecture were located within the many towns that were the battlefields of World War II in Europe. Others had been stolen by the Nazis, with official orders to move them in order to preserve them, when in reality many were bound for the private collections of high-ranking Nazi officials.

Edsel does a fantastic job of bringing the characters of The Monuments Men off the page and into the reader’s imagination. Though the story is many years in the past, the author brings the personas to the reader to meet in the present. This ability to provide life to historical figures likely stems from the fact that he interviewed and became friends with several of the men whose service is chronicled in this book.

In addition to the sympathetic characterization, the author has a talent for making the horrors of war seem oppressive and real without resorting to gratuitous gore in order to depict evil. This literary skill enables him to bring the reality of such topics as genocide and wanton destruction to a young audience, opening up a dark chapter of history to their scrutiny without overwhelming the inherent innocence of children.

Though the book is intended for a younger audience than Edsel’s previous book, The Monuments Men, it is informative and interesting to adults, as well. The topic is one that is relevant and largely unexplored by other authors, and the Monuments Men themselves provide a positive example of how good people can make a difference in the midst of a bad situation. These things all make it a good read for its intended audience and for all readers.

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Scholastic

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  1 religious exclamation; 4 mild obscenities; 4 derogatory names.

Violence/Gore:  Many reports of battles or invasions without many details, but some with high death tallies; characters discover dead bodies a few times; an individual has a gruesome disfigurement from past war; a few reports of destruction of a building; description of moving dead bodies after a battle; artillery, gunfire, and bombings fall near characters a few times; characters sift through ruins and ponder the extent of destruction a few times; report of a child being bullied; several reports of deaths; prisoners are taken in war; mention of  a death penalty enforced for some crimes; a few reports of an assassination; buildings are found badly damaged or destroyed; description of a scene with many dead bodies and horrible living conditions including devices used for torture an execution; mass graves and burned bodies are found; a few reports of suicides; a few reports of an executions; artwork is destroyed or damaged a few times; vehicles are sabotaged; an area is sprayed with gunfire; a character is mildly injured in a car wreck; a character dodges gunfire; a character breaks bones in a fall; report of many businesses and houses of worship destroyed in one day; a character undergoes a painful dental procedure; a character is killed by an artillery explosion, with blood described; a character is killed in a firefight; description of emaciated prison survivors; first-hand (historical) account of property damage and dead bodies, including gory injuries; photographs include destroyed buildings and a couple of pictures with many dead bodies.

Sex/Nudity:  A few times, bodies of executed people are described as being naked; classical paintings show people wearing see-through clothing and a few naked adults; photos of classical sculptures shown: a naked toddler; a few naked men. (None of the nudity in this book is sexual in nature.)

Mature Subject Matter:

War (WWII); theft; antisemitism; genocide; Nazism; separation from family; poverty; homosexuality (brief mention); death (friend); slavery.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

Characters smoke cigarettes and cigars; characters drink champagne; cyanide is used as a poison.

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

My taste in literature leans heavily towards sci-fi, fantasy, and (my favorite) horror, and the latter can present some fairly murky waters for parents to let their children explore. I enjoy novels of both the standard and graphic varieties. Since those genres, and graphic novels in particular, tend to appeal to boys, I hope that I can help other Boy Mommies in their quest to find books that their little video gamers--I mean, future bibliophiles will read and enjoy. When I am not reading, I enjoy tabletop role-playing games, video games, and singing karaoke. I have a wonderful husband who lets me indulge my reading habit by sharing the housework and being a great dad to our genius kids and their faithful hound.