FLOWERS ON THE WALL by Miriam Nerlove


by & illustrated by
Age Range: 7 - 10
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 Rachel, the Jewish heroine of this story, is trapped indoors, first by illness, then by the lack of shoes, and finally, by the invasion of Poland by the Germans in 1939. This story of persecution and poverty opens with Rachel's father still working at his store in Warsaw; soon, though, his business is taken over and he and his son, Nat, work as porters- -jobs once delegated to horses. Rachel is forced to remain inside all winter, and through the small pleasures that break up the monotony of Rachel's ordeal--such as guessing whose feet are passing the basement apartment's only window--Nerlove (Thanksgiving, 1990, etc.) makes clear the pain of this exile. With a cast-off paint set, Rachel and her father paint flowers on the walls of their apartment; the dusky moss tones of the illustrations, echoing the somber tone of the text, come temporarily alive with the brightly petaled foliage that seems to herald more hopeful times. Then Rachel's family is ousted, first to the Warsaw ghetto and then to Treblinka. This strong, sad ending, despite the dire true story behind Rachel's circumstances (an old photo was Nerlove's inspiration), means that this book is best given to readers who already have a context for understanding it; that such horrors against humanity are treated with understatement makes them no less terrifying. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-689-50614-7
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: McElderry
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1996


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