Cover Image: One Last Shot: Based on a True Story of Wartime Heroism

One Last Shot: Based on a True Story of Wartime Heroism

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for giving me access to the free advanced digital copy of this book.
Was this review helpful?
I've enjoyed every other Kip Wilson book, so I am never surprised when a new one comes out and I cannot put it down.  Getting these historical stories--the ones not often told--makes me so excited for the future of this author and their contributions to teen literature.  
One Last Shot tackles an extremely visual medium, photography, and wraps it into poetry.  The life of Gerta Pohorylle is one I was not familiar with until picking up this book.  It is a distinct portion of time that is not widely covered in schools, unless sought out.
Wilson draws you in to a lesser-known name and her life with active and beautiful poetry, offering snippets of experiences to build a heroine of journalism and one we should definitely keep on the forefront of women's history.
Was this review helpful?
An interesting fictional account of wartime heroism that should appeal to readers with an interest in photography and WW2. Should find a place in school libraries and could be categorized in a number of ways, i.e. history, biography, verse.

Thank you to NetGalley for an advance copy of this book. I hope it finds wide readership.
Was this review helpful?
This is a short powerful read about a little known female photojournalist. Even if you don’t know the name Robert Capa, you’ve likely seen at least one of his photographs, whether it be from his coverage of the Spanish Civil War or D-Day or a variety of other war zones he covered. This book aims to highlight the contributions of Gerda Taro (born German Pohorylle) an early collaborator of Capa’s, who helped him create the alias of Robert Capa and also published under it for a time. Unfortunately, Taro died weeks before her 27th birthday while covering the Spanish Civil War, and a large chunk of her output as a photojournalist was lost only to be recovered in 2007 so while Capa became world famous, she did not. Wilson’s novel in verse seeks to remedy that.

For me, the strongest part of this book was the atmosphere. Wilson shows us how Taro and her friends and family responded to the growing fascism of Germany in the 1920s and 30s and we see her fight for left wing ideas in Germany, Paris, and Spain. What was especially remarkable to me was the contrast in level of worry portrayed by Taro and family compared to their non Jewish friends. Wilson also highlights the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War, something that is barely mentioned in American history classes. 

I am of two minds about this book. On the one hand I think this could be a great entry point for teens into a history that might otherwise not interest them; however, I also found that in making Taro a typical YA heroine, she felt really flat. A lot of her actions seemed to be reactive, and the way her death is written makes it seem like she is at fault for not listening to advice. I seem to be in the minority on this one though.

Overall, I think as a teen I would have loved having a book like this and would recommend to those who like historical fiction and novels written in verse.
Was this review helpful?
I received an ARC via NetGalley. All opinions are my own. 
I really enjoyed this novel in verse recounting of the life of Gerda Taro. Kip Wilson has a knack for adding gravitas to poignant stories, and she does so here, capturing Gerda’s heroism beautifully.
Was this review helpful?
One Last Shot is a powerful historical fiction novel in verse that tells the story of Gerda Taro.  Gerda grew up Jewish in pre-WWII Germany and escaped to France when her political activism gets her arrested for distributing anti-Nazi propaganda.  When in France she meets Andre Friedman, a Hungarian photographer, who fosters her interest in photography.  Together they reinvent photojournalism under the names of Robert Capa and Gerda Taro.  They travel to areas of military conflict, specifically Spain during the Spanish Civil War.  While trying to capture the lives and vibrant hopes of the Spanish republican forces while they fight against fascism she pushes closer and closer to the front line and loses sight of her own safety. 

This novel in verse is written in such a way that it was easy to imagine the growing conflict, fear, tension, and hope that these people felt while putting everything on the line to fight against the growing waves of fascism.  The "Snapshot" poems are especially powerful as they describe specific photos that Taro took.  They are written so exactly that you are not only to picture the scene clearly but can easily identify them if you look at her photos.   

Highly recommended for those who enjoy historical fiction, strong female characters, and novels in verse.
Was this review helpful?
One Last Shot is another fantastic historical novel in verse by Kip Wilson.  Wilson is a master of drawing her readers into the story.  Highly recommended for all YA collections where historical fiction and novels in verse are popular.
Was this review helpful?
Amazing! Kip Wilson is a powerful writer and this book did not disappoint. The story follows wartime photographer Gerda Taro through her life and death. I did not know much about this woman and this book made me want to learn more. Wilson has a wonderful way of describing scenes that makes you feel like you are experiencing the same thing as the characters. I love the information provided at the end of the book that provides more information on each of the characters and the fact based evidence that supports the story.
Was this review helpful?
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC of this novel. 2.5-3/5 stars. 

I remember liking White Rose by Wilson since historical fiction verse novels are a rarity but....this was just missing a lot. While I love the verse elements and how it covered the photojournalism side of the war, and even a part leading up to WW2 often not discussed (spanish civil war, hitler's rise to power, etc.) it just...felt undeveloped. 

Gerda is flat. There is no development for her besides her being ambitious with her career, but we learn nothing about her and how she develops her talents or how she becomes a photographer with Robert past that somehow they end up lucky and renowned. For being based on the real photographer, I felt like a lot more characterization...and even plot...could have happened. 

I definitely found myself reading to just be done with this one...it wasn't awful but just lacked the development to make it great.
Was this review helpful?
As a lifelong photography lover, and a photographer myself, I loved learning about Gerda Taro. Bonus points since I also love reading about women who made history.
Written in verse it's so easy to get caught up in Gerda's world and everyday life. Kip Wilson does a great job capturing what she must have been like and gave readers yet another inspiring woman to admire.
The one thing I did and did not like was the effort of trying to make obvious parallels between 1930's Europe to everything going on today. I liked the emphasis in pointing out that history does seem to be repeating itself in various ways, but it really did feel like an effort. Almost as if they're worried readers won't get the message.
I also feel that it took away from Greda's own story, as if she were a background character to everything going on despite the fact that this is supposed to be her story.
Was this review helpful?
Photojournalist Gerda Taro was killed capturing the combat of the Spanish Civil War. The determined German daughter of Polish immigrants, Taro, whose real last name was Pohorylle, held strong political anti-fascist political views and was determined to leave the world a better place. A self-taught photographer, Taro was a strong-willed woman who navigated a complicated political world as a woman and a Jew growing up pre-World War II. 

Once again Kip Wilson's novel in verse distills emotions and politics, giving the reader a front seat in history. This is historical fiction at its best.
Was this review helpful?
Phenomenal historical fiction told in lyrical verse about war photographer Gerda Taro. I blew through this book and simultaneously did not want it to end. One would think the story would get lost in so much historical detail but  in fact it only made me want to learn more about this lesser known figure. Her powerful character shines through on each page. I cannot wait to get my hands on a physical copy of this book.
Was this review helpful?
You ever heard the name of Robert Capa? Even if you don't know about the famous war photojournalist, chances are that you've seen one or more of his photos somewhere. Like this iconic picture of the Spanish Civil War I've always stumbled into everywhere I look to read about the pre-WWII period and 1930s Spain:
(image)

So perhaps it'll be the biggest surprise to you to learn that, in the beginning, "Robert Capa" was also a woman.
(image)

Indeed, "he" was a man and a woman: André Friedmann and Gerta Pohorylle, two Jewish photographers from Germany and Hungary respectively, who reinvented themselves as Robert Capa and Gerda Taro, initially selling their photographs under the Robert Capa name before they went their separate ways and Robert kept the name. This couple, who were also a romantic pairing and not just a professional partnership, became super-famous, probably amongst the first celebrity photojournalists, whilst covering the Spanish Civil War, and sold their photos at high prices to newspapers, until the one half of the brand died at the front.
(image)

Like the author confesses in her notes, Gerda Taro was a completely unknown name to most readers. I am very familiar with Hemingway's then wife, Martha Gellhorn, a remarkable woman with a life worthy of a novel on her own, but I can think of at least three other female journalists covering the Spanish Civil War. Gerda, on the other hand, escaped me for a long while until the Rogoyska biography. Why? Probably her premature death cutting her career short, the fact that Robert eventually overshadowed her, and that thousands of her photographs were kept hidden in storage for decades until the nephew of a Mexican diplomat rediscovered them in the 90s and they were made public much later, which sparked interest in Gerda's work.

Kip Wilson doesn't say it, but Gerda Taro is hardly unique in the profession. According to data in Spanish archives, there were a bit below 200 female journalists in Spain covering the war, from different nationalities and with different sympathies, though the media coverage, biases, and fascination with celebrity makes it look as if they were just a handful. What sets Gerda apart, I won't say talent because the others were also very talented, including Gellhorn, who was far, far better than grumpy Ernest (who was also covering the war as a correspondent), but the fact that she was a photographer and her sad end: she was the first-ever female journalist to fall in action. She died during a counterattack by the nationalists in Brunete, near Madrid, in 1937, some days before her 27th birthday.

And, honestly, the way "One Last Shot" tells the scene, it reads a bit like a Too Stupid To Live trope, and that troubled me. Gerda's death was an accident, an absurd and tragic one, but the way it's told in this novel in verse, it appeared to me as if it's blaming Gerda for it for disobeying the orders of the commander in charge of that front to not be there that day and go away, but she turns a deaf ear to it and goes there anyway, and consequently gets trapped in the republican army's retreat, dying in hospital due to an accident during it.

It's the characterisation I didn't like in this novel. Gerda is made into a "YA heroine" (the author's words, not mine), which isn't a positive as you'd think. Have you seen what kind of heroines YA books have? Heavy on the Strong Wimmenz stereotype and light on the personal complexity, always make room for the romance and angsting over The Boys (there's never only one), spoon-feed simplified and dogmatic takes on life and politics and the world, and present a black and white worldview that strips it all of the layers and layers of difficult nuance...

And this book has it all, Gerda's life is so oversimplified, large chunks of her life are glossed over in time jumps, we see little to nothing of the early talent she showed, and even less of her learning the actual craft of photography. As it's all in free verse, it reads like a diary cut in thin strips and written in thinner strips of paper in which there's room for only one word per line. Essentially, like you are writing a whole diary entry in a bit of paper no wider than your finger. It doesn't read like verse, free or not, and definitely there's no Eugene Onegin-style character layering and beauty of language. It's all tell framed as Us vs Them, The Left vs The Right, so amorphous and nebulous. No word on which flavour of "left" Gerda supported (there was no such thing as The Left as a political body back then, this isn't American party politics neatly divided in Democrats and Republicans), and you don't get a sense of what Gerda's personality is like. Saying over and over what she is, so independent and so good at everything, rolling her eyes at every stupid man, and acting all superior because she's a girl, etc., isn't personality. Show, not tell. Show me she is this fascinating woman, show me this great photographer she is, show me why I should care about her. Do not tell me all that.

I also didn't like the "self-translation" of some lines, where Wilson has Gerda say something in a foreign language, French, Spanish, or German, and then immediately translate it into English. Have we forgotten that Gerda isn't talking to an English-speaking audience? There's a glossary by the end where all those words are translated anyway, so why do that? I'm also surprised that this book claims Gerda was nicknamed "la pequeña rubia" (The little blonde) in Spain, because Spanish-speaking sources say her nickname was "la pequeña zorra roja" (the little red fox) because of her personality, her tiny size, her hair, and her ability to get her way. I'm inclined to believe the Spaniards here, as the explanation makes sense and they would know what they mean. Calling her just little blonde doesn't make as much sense.

I would've liked her interact more with Martha Gellhorn and in a more natural and believable way than the annoying "Men are sexist, amirite?" condescending commiseration scene that's the only one between these women. Given that they shared their time at the Hotel Florida, to make this one interaction an excuse for a cheap shot at men is a pity, wasted potential for Gerda to have another capable and amazing woman to share experiences with.

All in all, I don't believe the novel did Gerda justice. It's indeed too YA and too superfluous in its treatment of her life, made digestible in small bits of "verse" that reads more like chopped up prose. Gerda herself is an interesting person worth knowing, but there are biographies for that.
Was this review helpful?
COVER:

Let’s start with the cover. It’s brilliant. I love the illustration. It’s eye catching.

WHAT I LIKED:

This is a fascinating book. For starters it’s written in verse and it’s the first book I have read written in verse (that wasn’t a poetry book). I’m fascinated by women on the frontlines and in particular photographers / reporters. The story moved quickly and I would have liked to get to know Gerda more. Courageous woman that risked it all.

I found that this book was more geared less to teens and more to the mature young adults.
Was this review helpful?
I had never heard of Gerda Taro before, so I was excited to read about a new person in history. This was a well done fiction book and it worked for what I wanted it to. Kip Wilson wrote this so well and I'm glad Gerda's story was told. It left me wanting more and am glad I was able to read this.
Was this review helpful?
One Last Shot traces the adolescence and adult life of Gerta Pohorylle, the news photographer known as Gerda Taro. It is a story of accomplishment, resilience, and tragedy better suited for new adults or adults than for young adults or adolescents.

The story tells how Gerta grew up under the anti-Semitism of pre-war Germany. When she flees Germany and the persecution she receives for her anti-fascist protests, she lands in Paris where she meets others fighting for justice and freedom and learns to use photography to capture the struggles around her. When she visits Spain to capture the Spanish Civil War, she falls in love with the culture, people, and beauty of Spain and the fight for freedom. Her courage and passion allow her to capture vivid shots of the struggle, but when she is caught in a battle, her efforts to get one last shot land her in terrible danger.

The free verse format of this novel allows the author to convey feelings and events in a powerful way, and the plot still comes through clearly. While this story is described as a coming-of-age story, it reads much more like a new adult or women’s biography, focusing more on the protagonist’s adult life than on her growth through adolescence. While it feels like an adult story, it still provides a different view of the time period and the European struggle against fascism, and it will be a great addition to a classroom library or a study of World War II.
Was this review helpful?
An extremely moving novel about Gerda Taro and her amazing poise and determination as a woman trying to define herself in a male dominated world.

As a young child, Gerda became fascinated with photography but hsd no means to pursue it. As her Jewish family moved to escape Nazi Germany before the war, she learned more and more about activism in her country. Marrying these two passions led her to become a war time photographer with no fear of political issues, working on the front lines, and doing what she could to support her beliefs 

Written in verse, I felt that the novel moved quickly through her life. I enjoyed the equal time given to her personal life as well as her professional endeavors. I knew nothing of Gerda before reading so I was intrigued by her heroism and determination.
Was this review helpful?
One Last Shot is a powerful novel in verse that allowed me to really imagine what growing up Jewish in pre-WWII Germany must've been like for Gerda. Wilson does a great job of capturing the experience of Gerda Taro escaping to freedom in France and then trying to make a name for herself as a photographer during the Spanish Civil War. The letters between her and her family, though written with creative license at the likely events based on history, add extra heart to the book. My favorite parts were whenever a section is entitled "Snapshot" and details a specific image from the happenings in Spain. Those pieces are written in a simple but exact way that caused me to picture the scene clearly to the point of chills. I very much would recommend this one. Thanks to HarperCollins and Netgalley for the ARC.
Was this review helpful?
Writing in verse, author Kip Wilson cleverly tells the story of trailblazing photojournalist Gerda Taro. The daughter of Polish Jewish immigrants, Gerda comes of age in Germany as anti-Semitism surges. Standing up for justice, she gets in trouble for taking part in anti-Nazi activities, so her family sends her to France, It's there that she meets  photographer Andre Friedman, who reignites her interest in photography. The pair, who were romantic as well as professional partners, soon begin selling their photos and make a name for themselves as photojournalists. Their interest in covering military conflicts sends them to dangerous locations, including the front of the Spanish Civil War, where Gerda is killed. She was the first female photojournalist killed in combat.

Wilson's narrative introduces us to Gerda when she is a just a girl and allows us to see her development as a person, activist, and photojournalist through her teens and twenties. Teen readers will be interested in Gerda's involvement with the anti-Nazi cause and the trajectory that activism set her on. This fascinating story is sure to be popular with students interested in trailblazing women or the Holocaust.
Was this review helpful?
I love a good book in verse, and I also love Kip Wilson’s work. By the end of this book, I felt like I knew the plucky and incredibly brave and talented Gerda personally. I ended up spending a good deal of time after reading this looking at her photos and wow. Just wow. As an amateur photographer myself, there are so many times that I see something one way, and then a totally different way when it’s through my lens. There’s a flattening effect that adds permanence and weight and, even though I dabble in other forms of art and crafting, photography will always be my favorite. It’s fun and I think Gerda genuinely had fun with it too, even though the images she took were at some of humanity’s lowest points.
Was this review helpful?