Thursday, June 11, 2009

Catch a Tiger by the Toe

Pretty much anyone who knows me, knows me as a reader. One thing I struggle with is reading books in the historical fiction genre. I guess it is because the setting, especially the time period, can often take away from the story instead of adding to it. I did just finish a historical fiction novel by Ellen Levine titled Catch a Tiger by the Toe. I decided to read this book for two reasons: 1- It is a time period I don't know much about, post World War II. 2- I have to read some historical fiction to feel like I am a well-rounded reader!

I liked this book because it focused on a time that many people who didn't live it don't understand. When the Soviet Union became a Communist state, and the US began fighting with them after World War II, being considered a Communist or 'Red' was pretty scary. During this time, a lot of people forgot what was fought for in World War II- freedom for everyone- and began to discriminate against people who were rumored to be Communists. A senator named McCarthy fueled everyone's fear by calling people to testify in front of the Senate about being a Communist, and asking them to name other people they knew who were part of that political party. People lost jobs, were shunned by their neighbors, and treated poorly because of this. The ironic thing is, it has never been illegal to be part of any political party!

This book centers around Jamie and her family. Jamie hints often to a secret her family has. It is why her best friend can't come over, and why her mom is often reminding her to keep her lips sealed. For much of the book, the exact secret is unknown, but readers can infer her family is connected to the Communist party somehow. She wants to be a normal kid, so she lies to cover up her family's secret. Soon, the cat-or tiger-is out of the bag, and Jamie must learn how to deal with it.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. I liked learning about the McCarthy era, and want to know more about it. I am disappointed that I didn't learn more in school about this time period, which is similar to the little I learned about Japanese-American internment camps. I guess that textbook authors may feel it is easier to forget a mistake and move on instead of educate and learn from it.

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