A fablelike introduction to the Holocaust for the youngest audiences.
Ruthi and Leib frolic happily in a field gathering flowers with their mother. But when “soldiers stomped brutish boots into town,” their mother goes off to find food and never returns. The plot continues apace, with no repetition or structure to guide children’s understanding (save multiple references to “strawberry smiles”); the siblings are separated in an orphanage, and Ruthi goes to a nightmarish place “where numbers replaced names.” She survives the war, emigrates, builds a life for herself as an adult, and, in her old age, reunites with her brother. Reminiscent of the stylings of Art Spiegleman’s Maus, the children—based on compiled stories of Jewish youth, according to an author’s note—are represented as rabbits (albeit with “blonde curls” on Leib and straight, dark locks that flow past Ruthi’s ears), with other animal people present in background scenes. The prose attempts a flowery, poetic style, which is sometimes powerful and sometimes distracting. Tiny details indicate the specific historical events of the Holocaust, but since it’s never directly referred to, children will need help contextualizing the story.
Adults looking for tools to introduce the subject of the Holocaust will find a helpful beginning in this emotion-driven story. (Picture book. 5-8)