The Holocaust: a time of unimaginable horror, with moments of incandescence.
Following her picture book with Josée Bisaillon, Benno and the Night of Broken Glass (2010), Wiviott’s debut for teens, a novel in (largely excellent) verse, tells the fictionalized but carefully researched story surrounding one of those incandescent moments. In Auschwitz-Birkenau, Zlatka and Fania, Polish, Jewish, and determined to survive, become friends and replacement sisters. In each other, and in their small group of friends, they find strength. The titular heart is a tiny thing: a folded and stitched card penciled with birthday wishes that Zlatka creates for Fania for her 20th birthday, two years after she was captured trying to pass as Aryan. It is also a massive act of rebellion for every girl involved. It is, in the end, “A reason to take risks. / A reason to keep living.” If the heart were not an actual artifact (on display in Montreal), its metaphoric aptness might seem schmaltzy, but it is real, as are the transcribed wishes interspersed among the poems. Even in the darkness, light and love can survive, as Wiviott makes abundantly clear by picking a single thread from the millions of stories that occurred and stitching in context and facts to make both the larger horror and the smaller grace shine through.
An incredible story, told with respect and love, this deserves a wide readership. Just have the tissue box handy. (glossary, historical note, bibliography) (Historical fiction/verse. 12 & up)