top of page
  • Writer's pictureKelli Vanzego

Top 25 : Shaw and Orey write True "Untold" War Stories

The Caged Bird Sings: A Young Man's Untold War Chronicles the coming-of-age epistolary novel tells of wartime dynamics between Catholic and Jewish, boy and girl, father and son, and two estranged brothers on their journeys through love, tragedy and war. Landing on Reviews & Trends Magazine's TOP 25 List ®

World War II, 1940, in the Nazi-occupied city of Rouen, France: Despite Germany's stranglehold on the French, Benjamin Cohen, an introverted but musically talented adolescent, defies his father to study the carillon in the Catholic cathedral, a huge instrument of fifty-five bells. Though impeded by the German threat and his perceived dismissal by family, his confidence grows with the help of his new "family" at the cathedral and his pet cockatiel, Frère Jacques. Can Benjamin's mastery of the carillon and his love affair with the troubled nun-in-training, Marie-Noëlle, give him le courage he needs to perform the one act that can save his people from Nazi arrest and earn back his father's respect, or will it doom them all? This coming-of-age epistolary novel tells of wartime dynamics between Catholic and Jewish, boy and girl, father and son, and two estranged brothers on their journeys through love, tragedy and war.

RTM strongly recommends The Caged Bird Sings: A Young Man's Untold War Chronicles to its readership.


Book Synopsis

In Nazi-occupied France, Benjamin Cohen, a gifted musician, becomes obsessed with studying the fifty-five-bell carillon in the Catholic Rouen cathedral. He doesn’t care that he’s only thirteen years old and German soldiers patrol every street corner. Undeterred and in a world of his own, he pursues the carillon to the utter disappointment of his authoritarian father and family. Forced by his father to see a child psychiatrist, he learns to express his emotions through diary entries and seeks companionship through his pet cockatiel, Frère Jacques.

When the carillonneur, Monsieur deTarot, takes a chance on him, Benjamin cannot share with his family the joys of his new un-Jewish instrument, the relationships he forms over time with M. deTarot, with Marie-Noëlle (the beautiful, but troubled, nun-in-training), and with Jacques-Milan, the disfigured caretaker of the cathedral.

As Germany’s stranglehold tightens on the Jewish people of Rouen, Benjamin’s estranged older brother Émile secretively quits medical school and joins the French resistance. The brothers each enter into fraught romantic relationships: Benjamin with Marie-Noëlle; Émile with his resistance captain, code named Jeanne d’Arc. Knowing the dangers of working underground, Émile devises a risky plan to try to repair his relationship with Benjamin before it is too late.

Monsieur deTarot is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and Benjamin fears losing his teacher and new father figure, only to be devastated by the news of Émile’s death by execution.

Not knowing the medical fate of M. deTarot, Benjamin assumes the role of principal carillonneur, a position that advances his love relationship with Marie-Noëlle and prepares him to make the most critical and daring decision of his life, one that threatens his own life but could save the lives of his people, or doom them all.

Benjamin’s bravery averts a Nazi roundup and he flees to a safehouse north of Rouen, where he connects with his parents, and months later with Marie-Noëlle. When he learns of the arrest and deportation of his sister Miriam in Rouen, he cannot share the news with his parents, hoping instead that she remains safe.

As the war comes to an end, the product of Benjamin’s unconventional union with Marie-Noëlle becomes the one source of hope for the future of the Cohen family lineage. Three years after the war, a serendipitous meeting with Émile’s resistance captain Jeanne d’Arc delivers added hope for the future when Benjamin notices in her five-year-old son, a striking resemblance to Émile.


James Channing Shaw


James Channing Shaw, doctor, writer, and musician, often considered his first language to be music. With an MD degree from Boston University School of Medicine, he eventually entered academic medicine, where he assumed leadership positions at the University of Chicago and the University of Toronto. He cared for patients, published scientific articles and essays, and received awards for his teaching while continuing his musical interests that centered around jazz piano and composition. In 2012 he published a memoir of his medical career, Room for Examination. His other titles include: City of Destiny: Short Fiction, More or Less and a literary collection, The Quotable Robertson Davies. Dr. Shaw is married and divides his time between Toronto and San Francisco near children and grandchildren.

"Why do I write, you ask? The answer: Anger and gin, mostly. Anger, that underrated child and motivator who begs for the quieting effect of truth; and gin, which lets words flow naturally onto a page."-JCS

The sharp edges? Shaw has always smoothed them out with his love of nature, botany, food, wine and especially the listening, playing, and composition of music. These strains flow through everything he writes, whether short fiction, cook book, memoir, or his nearly-completed novel.


Cal Orey


Cal Orey, M.A., is a bestselling author-journalist and gifted storyteller. She has a master's degree in English from San Francisco State University. Her books include the hugely popular Healing Powers book series translated in more than two dozen languages. She has written more than 25 books (fiction and non-fiction), and has been featured in hundreds of national publications including Huffington Post and New York Daily. A native of California, Orey is a versatile novelist, and a Catholic.


Reviews & Trends Magazine © (RTM) is an international, electronic and print publication that features articles on products, services, brands, and people trending in a wide variety of market segments. From books and social media influences, to entertainment and fine dining, RTM is one of the world’s premier rating and review platforms.

Our editors and distribution partners create, curate, and publish content regularly. Write to to suggest topics, people, businesses, charitable causes, products, or services for us to feature.


top ten seal.png

Are you an author?

to submit your book for consideration in RTM's TOP 25 ® program.

bottom of page