Getting Ready for Unbroken


Wonderful book has been adapted by the author for young readers in anticipation of film’s release at Christmas


By far one of my favorite books of the past few years is Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand. I listened to this fine novel with my middle-school aged son when it first came out (2010 ). He was a determined non-reader, a typical sports-addicted tweener who nonetheless would hop into the car and demand that I “put that book back on.” The true-life tales of Louis Zamperini – a native of Torrance, CA – held his attention and stretched his imagination as Louis came from poverty to race at the Berlin Olympics, survived adrift at sea longer than anyone on record, and was then submitted to mind-numbing and inhumane treatment in a Japanese prison camp. Unbroken is a story of heroism, perseverance and the triumph of one man’s spirit – though those all sound like cliches, Hillenbrand helps us identify with the personal struggle of Louis’ life and makes his story a universal one.

The book is a long one, but in the tradition of books that, as a reader, you still don’t want it to end.  Teens and adults will love this book.

Unbroken adapted for the Screen


Zamperini died just last year, and his life was remembered with widespread admiration. Angelina Jolie was wise enough to snap up the movie rights, and her version of the story will be released in on Christmas day, 2014 – it will be rated PG-13.   Click here for the trailer, and you’ll get a sense of both the bravery and brutality portrayed in the film.



Here is Louis at the Berlin Olympics. Click here for a full gallery of Zamperini photos from Hillenbrand’s website. 


Unbroken adapted for Younger Readers

Interestingly, Hillenbrand has just released a version of the book that is aimed at younger readers – Unbroken: An Olympian’s Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive will also be on audibooks.   Read on for a letter from her, published on Goodreads, that explains why she created another book from this incredible material.

“Soon after the publication of Unbroken, I was startled by the volume of correspondence I received from teachers, librarians, parents, and students, urging me to recraft the book for young readers. The proposal delighted me. Louie Zamperini’s story is rich with lessons pertinent to young readers, lessons about perseverance, resourcefulness, and ingenuity; maintaining optimism amidst severe hardship; and, ultimately, forgiveness. If ever there was a life to inspire, this one was it. To create this book, I consulted teachers and librarians as well as hundreds of students who had read the adult edition. I gathered hundreds of never-before-published photographs from Louie’s life, most from his private collection, and selected more than one hundred to illustrate the narrative. After surveying scores of young readers to find out what they’d most like to ask Mr. Zamperini, I joined him for an extensive interview, which appears at the end of this book. It was one of his last interviews—he passed away shortly before the book went to press—and in it, he offered the messages he most wanted young people to learn from his life.”


Hillenbrand also wrote the equally popular non-fiction best-seller Seabiscuit, which was turned into an excellent film, starring Tobey Maguire. The book is also a fabulous read.

Boys in the Boat

Finally, if you’re a Hillenbrand fan and have raced through both these books already, another book from this season may tempt you. Boys in the Boat tells the story of rowers from University of Washington competing with east coast preppies, (echoing the east-west coast competition from Seabiscuit), and the west coasters go onto to surprise the world by winning Olympic Gold. It has been a best-seller this year, and perhaps my choice for this year’s best non-fiction title. (Boys in the Boat will also be released in a younger audience version, next year – and read here for why some librarians think it’s a mistake to “dumb down” perfectly good books which most teen readers could read, anyway). Enjoy!