The story loses focus on occasion, but no one who reads it will forget the history.

GIFTS FROM THE ENEMY

This book is a biography of Holocaust survivor Alter Wiener, but from time to time, he seems like a supporting character.

In adapting Wiener’s memoir for adults for children, Ludwig seems to want to be absolutely certain that they know the history of the Holocaust. She spends several pages summarizing Hitler’s campaign against the Jews, which causes the thread of Wiener’s narration to become occasionally lost. At times, the book reads more like a textbook than the life story of a boy who survived the Holocaust. Even the most traumatic passages sound oddly detached: “Many good and decent people lost their lives to this hatred—including my own friends and family.” The last several pages of the book, however, are deeply moving. A factory worker—someone who hardly knows him—risks her life to give him a bread-and-cheese sandwich every day. Even the smallest details of the story are haunting. A sign in the factory reads, “Do not look at the prisoners. Do not talk to the prisoners....If you do, you will be DOOMED.” These details are what make the story work. The facial expressions in a few of Orback’s full-bleed, atmospherically lit oil paintings are almost painful to look at.

The story loses focus on occasion, but no one who reads it will forget the history.   (vocabulary list, study guide) (Picture book/biography. 7-12)

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-935952-97-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: White Cloud Press

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014

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A deceptively simple, tender tale in which respect, resilience, and hope triumph.

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WISHTREE

Generations of human and animal families grow and change, seen from the point of view of the red oak Wishing Tree that shelters them all.

Most trees are introverts at heart. So says Red, who is over 200 years old and should know. Not to mention that they have complicated relationships with humans. But this tree also has perspective on its animal friends and people who live within its purview—not just witnessing, but ultimately telling the tales of young people coming to this country alone or with family. An Irish woman named Maeve is the first, and a young 10-year-old Muslim girl named Samar is the most recent. Red becomes the repository for generations of wishes; this includes both observing Samar’s longing wish and sporting the hurtful word that another young person carves into their bark as a protest to Samar’s family’s presence. (Red is monoecious, they explain, with both male and female flowers.) Newbery medalist Applegate succeeds at interweaving an immigrant story with an animated natural world and having it all make sense. As Red observes, animals compete for resources just as humans do, and nature is not always pretty or fair or kind. This swiftly moving yet contemplative read is great for early middle grade, reluctant or tentative readers, or precocious younger students.

A deceptively simple, tender tale in which respect, resilience, and hope triumph. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-04322-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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