A 13-year-old New Jersey girl struggling with her painting finds inspiration in magical visions of a Holocaust victim.
Maggie McConnell, a redheaded, white Irish-American girl, buys a coat at the Salvation Army Thrift Store and promptly starts hallucinating. She remembers starvation, burning chimneys, savage dogs, and whippings. She wakes in the night having painted in her sleep. She sees visions of herself wearing her thrift-store coat with a yellow star sewn on the lapel in the spot where, in the real world, she’d removed some loose threads. Though Maggie misses her beloved father, dead for two and a half years, and she mourns her now-shattered friendship with her popularity-obsessed older sister, the visions are what dominate her waking and sleeping lives. At least she has the reliable friendship of Taj, a brown-skinned Moroccan-American boy with a quirky fashion sense. New to school, Taj is happy to hold séances and investigate Maggie’s apparent haunting. Maggie’s connection to an Auschwitz prisoner is more than a simple ghost, though, and as her paranormal experiences continue—she can read and write gibberish Yiddish and (appallingly) a tattoo burns itself into her arm—her paintings become more emotionally powerful. Unlike Sid Fleischman’s stellar The Entertainer and the Dybbuk (2007), with its similar conceit, this lightweight paranormal uses the Nazi atrocities as a mere plot device for a magical adventure.
Avoid. (Paranormal adventure. 10-12)