Fourteen-year-old Nicole happens to be away from home the night the Nazis come for her family. Alone, shunned by non-Jewish neighbors afraid to help her, she finds a series of temporary shelters in occupied France until at last the war ends. A year later, an Auschwitz survivor brings her the terrible news that her parents and sister are not coming back. Now 17, she makes her way to distant family in America and a new, unexpected set of challenges: Her cousins treat her poorly, and the language and culture confuse her as she tries to come to grips with her enormous loss. Other refugees and an unexpectedly kindly employer provide support, but in the end the personal strength that helped her survive the German occupation propels her into a life all her own. A sequel to the 30-year-old A Pocket Full of Seeds, this is a moving, believable story, told simply but rich in historical details that enliven and never overwhelm. A worthy addition to Holocaust literature. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: April 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-59643-040-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2005

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A bone-chilling tale not to be ignored by the universe.


If Anne Frank had been a boy, this is the story her male counterpart might have told. At least, the very beginning of this historical novel reads as such.

It is 1939, and Yanek Gruener is a 10-year old Jew in Kraków when the Nazis invade Poland. His family is forced to live with multiple other families in a tiny apartment as his beloved neighborhood of Podgórze changes from haven to ghetto in a matter of weeks. Readers will be quickly drawn into this first-person account of dwindling freedoms, daily humiliations and heart-wrenching separations from loved ones. Yet as the story darkens, it begs the age-old question of when and how to introduce children to the extremes of human brutality. Based on the true story of the life of Jack Gruener, who remarkably survived not just one, but 10 different concentration camps, this is an extraordinary, memorable and hopeful saga told in unflinching prose. While Gratz’s words and early images are geared for young people, and are less gory than some accounts, Yanek’s later experiences bear a closer resemblance to Elie Wiesel’s Night than more middle-grade offerings, such as Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars. It may well support classroom work with adult review first.

A bone-chilling tale not to be ignored by the universe. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: March 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-45901-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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Pub Date: March 31, 2000

ISBN: 0-06-028454-4

Page Count: 250

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1999

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