Rosetta’s life changes when a 16-year-old refugee from the Nazis comes to live with her.
A grade six girl in 1942 Montreal, narrator Rosetta has two sisters, but she hadn’t expected to gain an older brother. Isaac fled Hitler’s Germany on the Kindertransport but was later interned by the British government. Now freed, he’s alone in a foreign country. Isaac’s entry into Rosetta’s family isn’t frictionless: Rosetta squabbles with her sisters, she’s jealous of Isaac’s relationship with her father, and she snoops in his few possessions. But she and Isaac grow close, and what she learns about his past is worrying. Rosetta is from a family of light-skinned observant Jews and is ignorant of religious segregation or persecution. Isaac, with one Jewish parent and one Christian, saw his own mother—a tall, blonde, blue-eyed “Aryan goddess” who works for the Nazis—repudiate him. Even in theoretically liberal-minded Montreal, Isaac’s not free of persecution. Jewish quotas will likely keep him from attending medical school at McGill. Moreover, Rosetta’s best friend’s brother, a handsome blond non-Jew, says vile anti-Semitic things to Isaac. Italicized, phonetically rendered accents (“So, one afternoon, I vent der”) keep Isaac at arm’s length even as Rosetta grows closer to him, and there’s more than one “remarkable coincidence” holding the whole together, but readers will respond to how flawed, likable Rosetta learns how to welcome refugees wholeheartedly.
As timely as historical fiction can be. (Historical fiction. 8-11)