I Will Come Back for You: A Family Hiding During World War II by Marisabina Russo
Based on real life stories from the author’s family, this is a story of survival during the years of the Holocaust. A little girl tells the story of her family in Italy during World War II. The book shows the transition from seeing soldiers around to the growing restrictions and imprisonment of Jewish families. The story starts in Rome where the family has been living, but then their father is sent away into the mountains with the other Jewish men. The family would travel into the mountains to see her father on the weekends. Even this did not last long, because soon there was talk of concentration camps coming, so her father ran away to hide. The Nazis then tried to take her mother, but through a series of skillful tricks, she was able to prevent being sent to a concentration camp. This book takes a very challenging time in history and makes it accessible and understandable for children.
Russo successfully uses the lens of a small girl to explain the situations during World War II for Jewish people. Focusing on the breaking apart of families rather than the atrocities of the Nazis, makes this book powerful on a different level. The horrors of the Holocaust are evident in the story, but do not take center stage. It is very skillfully written and conceived.
Russo’s art has a gentle simplicity to it. The paintings have a flatness that works well and the images are clearly set in the past. The story is compelling and fascinating, yet is definitely suitable for younger readers.
This picture book speaks to the horrors of World War II in a way that children can understand. Appropriate for ages 6-8.
Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade.
The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder
Cam has been battling cancer for the last seven years. At age 16, she has reached a point where nothing more can be done. All she has left is acceptance and a lot of attitude. But Cam’s mother and sister are not ready to give up hope, so they move the family north from their lives at Disney World in Florida to Promise, Maine. Promise is a small community where miracles happen. Cam certainly doesn’t believe in miracles or religion for that matter, but Cam feels the magic of Promise too. Her blemishes from the disease fade, her hair grows long, and she feels better than ever. Then there is her Flamingo List that she created at summer camp. It’s a list of things that she wants to do before she dies. Many of them seem very unlikely at first, but as the summer goes on, she ticks them off the list. Cam has one final summer to reach her goals and even to exceed her own expectations.
This is not a weepy cancer book at all. Rather it is the story of a sarcastic, brilliant girl battling a disease and finding a place to be herself and create the best days ever. In Cam, Wunder has given us much more than a tragic story of the last days of a life. Instead Cam seems more filled with life than the rest of us. She shines, entrances and lives with abandon. It is like watching a shooting star race past.
Wunder also creates an entire cast of impressive supporting characters. They are often introduced as stereotypes, but then they become more fully realized as the reader gets to know and understand them. We as readers get to discover the characters alongside Cam. The setting of Promise, Maine is also beautifully rendered with the magical parts interwoven to create a dance of magical realism and realistic fiction.
Gorgeously written and realized, this is a powerful read with a great, flawed heroine. Appropriate for ages 15-17.
Reviewed from copy received from Razor Bill.
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Tablet, a Jewish magazine, has a list of their picks for best Jewish Children’s Books in 2011. This list is sure to broaden your reading list and library collection past Hanukkah alone.
Picture Books for Very Young Readers
Nosh, Schlep, Shluff by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke
Many Days, One Shabbat by Fran Manushkin, illustrated by Maria Monescillo
The Shabbat Princess by Amy Metzer, illustrated by Martha Aviles
Picture Books for 4 to 8 Year Old Readers
Naamah and the Ark at Night by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, illustrated by Holly Meade
Lipman Pike: America’s First Home Run King by Richard Michelson, illustrated by Zachary Pullen
Marcel Marceau, Master of Mime by Gloria Spielman, illustrated by Manon Gauthier
Chanukah Lights by Michael J. Rosen and Robert Sabuda
The Story of Esther by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Jill Weber
I Will Come Back for You by Marisabina Russo
Chapter Books for Middle-Grade Readers
The Cats in the Doll Shop by Yona Zeldis McDonough, illustrated by Heather Maione
When Life Gives You OJ by Erica Perl
OyMG by Amy Fellner Dominy
Music Was It: Young Leonard Bernstein by Susan Goldman Rubin
Chapter Books for Young Adult Readers
Deadly by Julie Chibbaro
Flesh and Blood So Cheap by Albert Marrin
The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow