THE LAST TRAIN

A HOLOCAUST STORY

Arato fictionalizes the painful, true story of brothers Paul and Oscar Auslander, 5 and 10 respectively, along with their mother, Lenke—Hungarian Jews who survived Nazi concentration camps during the final years of World War II.

The story follows the family as they are forced to move repeatedly, ending up at the horrifying Bergen-Belsen camp. They are transported in cattle cars packed with terrified fellow Jews. The clarity of specific recalled events crystallizes their reality. Tiny Paul, momentarily separated from his family, is shoved onto a different train than Oscar and his mother; miraculously, they find one another again. The book has three distinct parts: the inhumane camps, the dramatic rescue and the powerful reunion in 2009 of Paul and his American liberators. Most revealing are the photographs and author’s notes, conveying both historical details and the personal conflict of remembering—Paul is the author's husband. Less successful is the delivery of the narrative itself; an emotionally flat writing style and awkward shifts in perspective from young Paul to an omniscient narrator serve to distance readers. The maladroit placement of a sheaf of images, the first of which reveals the happy family reunited in 1947, in the middle of the titular journey is especially unfortunate. Nevertheless, this is a good introduction to a difficult topic—give it to readers for whom a “true” survivor’s story will carry more weight than a wholly fictional account. (introduction, photographs, author’s notes) (Historical fiction. 9-13)

 

Pub Date: March 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-926973-62-3

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2013

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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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A beautiful, evocative sophomore effort from Newbery honoree Wolk (Wolf Hollow, 2016).

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BEYOND THE BRIGHT SEA

This book will make people want to run away to the Elizabeth Islands.

It’s the 1920s. Crow and her adoptive father, Osh, live in a tiny house on a tiny island off Cape Cod, but her descriptions make it seem strange and mysterious. The cottage is “built from bits of lost ships,” and it’s full of found treasures: “a pair of sun-white whale ribs arched over our doorway, a tarnished ship’s bell hanging from their pinnacle.” Every chapter in the book has a new mystery to be solved: why was Crow sent away in an old boat when she was a baby? Why is a fire burning on an abandoned island? Did Capt. Kidd really hide treasure nearby? But some readers will love Wolk’s use of language even more than the puzzles. Crow says her skin is “the same color Osh [makes] by mixing purple and yellow, blue and orange, red and green.” (The race of the characters isn’t always identified, but Osh says, “I came a long, long way to be here,” and his native language and accent make him sound “different from everyone else.”) The pacing of the book isn’t always as suspenseful as it should be. There are a few lulls, which the author tries to fill with heavy foreshadowing. But the mysteries—and the words that describe them—are compelling enough to send readers to the islands for years to come.

A beautiful, evocative sophomore effort from Newbery honoree Wolk (Wolf Hollow, 2016). (Historical fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-99485-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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