PLAY TO THE ANGEL

It is 1938 and Hitler’s plan to annihilate the Jews has just extended into Vienna. Twelve-year-old Greta Radky knows only one thing to be true in her life—she wants to become a concert pianist like her late brother, Kurt. To make ends meet on a dressmaker’s salary, however, isn’t easy, and it takes considerable acts of persuasion before Greta’s mother (Mutti) agrees not to sell their piano. When Herr Hummel, a reclusive pianist, moves into a nearby apartment, Greta’s uncommon talent comes to light and she’s given the opportunity to shine in a recital at the Academy of Music and Performing Arts. Greta often practices at his apartment so she can rehearse undisturbed. Wishing to repay him, Greta stashes money in a secret compartment within his desk, along with his passport, never knowing that one day both would be needed to save his life. When SS officers arrive to ransack his apartment, Hummel’s true identity is revealed as Karl von Engelhart, a world-renowned pianist who uses his fortune to help Jewish artists flee Germany. Greta lies to the SS officers regarding Hummel’s whereabouts, then brings her beloved teacher money and his passport to escape to Prague. Eventually, Greta and her mother must flee to Switzerland; having once worked for Jews, no one will purchase dresses from Mutti. Dahlberg has captured the fearful mood of Nazi terror in Austria; the reaction to Nazi propaganda by supposedly “decent” people will never be made palatable. The ugliness is laid bare: Greta’s music by Mendelssohn is ripped up by Nazis because the composer is Jewish. A Catholic friend is tortured just because her hair and eyes are dark. Nazi posters depicting hideous caricatures of dark, hook-nosed Jews are described. The blue angel that hangs above Engelhart’s window symbolizes a whole culture’s need for divine interception. Unforgettable writing from a first novelist. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2000

ISBN: 0-374-35994-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2000

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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Remarkable.

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PRAIRIE LOTUS

A “half-Chinese and half-white” girl finds her place in a Little House–inspired fictional settler town.

After the death of her Chinese mother, Hanna, an aspiring dressmaker, and her White father seek a fresh start in Dakota Territory. It’s 1880, and they endure challenges similar to those faced by the Ingallses and so many others: dreary travel through unfamiliar lands, the struggle to protect food stores from nature, and the risky uncertainty of establishing a livelihood in a new place. Fans of the Little House books will find many of the small satisfactions of Laura’s stories—the mouthwatering descriptions of victuals, the attention to smart building construction, the glorious details of pleats and poplins—here in abundance. Park brings new depth to these well-trodden tales, though, as she renders visible both the xenophobia of the town’s White residents, which ranges in expression from microaggressions to full-out assault, and Hanna’s fight to overcome it with empathy and dignity. Hanna’s encounters with women of the nearby Ihanktonwan community are a treat; they hint at the whole world beyond a White settler perspective, a world all children deserve to learn about. A deeply personal author’s note about the story’s inspiration may leave readers wishing for additional resources for further study and more clarity about her use of Lakota/Dakota. While the cover art unfortunately evokes none of the richness of the text and instead insinuates insidious stereotypes, readers who sink into the pages behind it will be rewarded.

Remarkable. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-78150-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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