An account of the Holocaust through the eyes of 7-year-old Lyuba, a real Jewish girl who survived by hiding in a haystack for 18 months.
It is 1941, and Lyuba and her mother have been terribly injured in a pogrom. Her father is making preparations that Lyuba, for the most part, doesn’t understand and can’t explain, though she knows that life has gotten scary. When the Nazis prepare to murder everyone in the ghetto, Lyuba’s parents send away her sister, Hanna, who is blonde and blue-eyed and can pass for non-Jewish. (Horribly, Hanna is the only member of the family not to survive the war; she is captured and tortured to death at age 11, as readers learn toward the end.) Lyuba and her parents, meanwhile, hide for a year and a half in the haystack of their beloved Ukrainian friend Pavlo. They whisper, barely moving, and fall silent when warned of Nazis by Pavlo’s dog. A few chapters purport to be from the dog’s perspective rather than Lyuba’s; these impair the book’s verisimilitude without improving the emotional or narrative flow. Overall, much of the process is choppy, and Lyuba’s naiveté necessarily restricts the narrative. A biographical note by MacWilliams, who interviewed Lyuba (now known as Laura Oberlender), tells us that she came to the United States, married, and now has six granddaughters.
It’s important that this survivor testimony has been captured, but this is not a particularly compelling addition to the rich canon of Holocaust survivor memoirs for children. (historical note, photographs) (Historical fiction. 7-10)