Reviews

School Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Gr 7-Up In this powerful memoir, Nir describes his Jewish family's experiences in Poland during World War II. Throughout most of the war he, his mother, and sister hid in plain sight as Catholics, ever fearful that they would be unmasked and sent to the gas chambers. The author depicts their lives with incredible immediacy, giving readers a real sense of what life was like for not only the Jews, but also for the Poles. He clearly portrays the harsh treatment of the Polish people by the Germans and Russians, as well as the rampant Polish anti-Semitism of the time. He does not shy away from the brutal realities of his experiences, including details such as seeing men murdered in the streets, a nightmarish trip through a sewer while in the Polish resistance, and the violence and rapes in the refugee camps. Readers enter his world of fear, filth, and hunger; of constant close calls; of bravery and despair; of being forced to bury his true identity until lying became more normal than truth. Unlike the authors of many Holocaust books, Nir was not hidden and therefore was able to observe the war firsthand. He shows the horror that everyone experienced, but Jews most of all, and he does it in an engrossing, readable, if stark fashion that will give readers a new view of an often-portrayed war. This book was first published for adults in 1989 and has been revised for a young adult audience. A painfully honest narrative. -Amy Lilien-Harper, The Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

To the burgeoning shelf of outstanding Holocaust memoirs, Nir, a New York City psychiatrist, contributes this stellar account of how he eluded capture as a Jewish boy in Poland during WWII. His story, previously told for adults in a 1989 book with the same title, recalls Louis Begley's Wartime Lies in its rapid chronicling of daring ruses, hairbreadth escapes from Germans and anti-Semitic Poles, and the everyday snares threatening the narrator's attempts to pass himself off as Catholic. At one point, he admires his older sister's ability to "continually mastermind escape strategies that would have made Houdini jealous"; Nir himself appears to have shared that talent. Readers will admire his quick thinking and bravery. The author shifts easily between the perspective of childhood and adolescence and the psychological insights of a rigorously attentive adult. For example, describing his involvement in the Polish partisan uprising that ended in the razing of Warsaw, Nir writes: "Paradoxically, I could cope with this constant onslaught of painful and dangerous experiences at age fourteen, not so much because of my strength but because of the very fact that events followed each other so rapidly. Before I could ponder one situation, I was wrestling with another." Unflinching in his depiction of brutality and suffering, Nir is also empathetic in his acceptance of the feelings of his young self. His book merits and rewards serious attention. Ages 14-up. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Gr. 8-12. From the sewers of Warsaw to the elegant hangouts of the Nazi elite, Nir spent his World War II childhood disguised as a Catholic, hiding that he was a Jew. He was 11 in 1941 when he saw his father dragged away to his death, and from then on the boy survived on the run with his brave mother and older sister, escaping the Nazis and the Russians, and just as scared of the anti-Semitic Polish refugees. He tries to lighten his hair to look more Aryan, and he is constantly aware that his circumcision is his greatest danger: How will he avoid the doctor, the communal showers? Nir is now an eminent child psychiatrist in the U.S., and an adult version of this memoir was published in 1989. The power of his narrative comes as much from the truthfulness of the child's viewpoint--the combination of the grave and the absurd--as from the analysis of the adult looking back. Teens will be moved by the boy's loss of innocence, the horrifying facts of what it takes to survive. --Hazel Rochman


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Gr. 3^-6. Culled from many corners of the world, the seven stories in this collection are drawn from biblical and Talmudic legends and folklore. The anthology opens, appropriately enough, with a tale from the book of Genesis. The days of the week argue about which of them is the most important. Finally, the seventh day silences the others with the holiness of her gifts of rest and peace. "Sabbath Spice," set in ancient Persia, concerns an emperor who learns that it's the spirituality of the Sabbath, not the food, that lends spice to the holiday meal. One of the lesser-known selections, "A Riddle and a Kiss," which hails from the Judeo-Spanish tradition, incorporates romance, humor, and respect for dignity, particularly dignity for women. A charcoal drawing, contributed by Kelly Stibling Sutherland, opens each story, its wispy lines conveying the mystery, magic, and warmth of the tales. A bibliography, a recommended reading list, and notes are appended. --Ellen Mandel