By Kathryn Lasky, published 2005
“How much he missed Rachel. Would he be able to hold out long enough for the revolution? Would he survive? Would he ever devote endless hours to practicing a Brahms concerto? Would he ever play games with his sister again?”
Here is a painfully beautiful and difficult children’s book that I must recommend particularly because I want my son and grandson to read it. Not everyone will have the same interest. However my Jewish heritage, which may in time fade from the world, is so accurately described in this work of historical fiction, that I am compelled to share this children’s book, even if it’s painful to read. It is a perfect book for a classroom study of anti-Semitism.
The story is set in the late 1800s in Russia and Poland, during the worst pogroms against the Jewish community. It is likely that those very pogroms are why my ancestors came to the Goldena Medinah, the Golden Country, the term many, including my own grandparents, used for America.
The writer walks a fine line, portraying the immense tragedy of the time, along with the hope and dreams of those who lived through it. To do this in a way that is appropriate for younger people is not easy. The hero is a 15-year-old boy, a virtuoso violinist, and we stay with his story for five years. So there is something for young people to relate to. However, the tragedies are not easy to take, so I personally recommend this children’s book for 14 and up, though it could be read with adult guidance by age 12 or 13. For any high school class studying US immigrants in the 1900s, this book works quite well. It is definitely a good read for parents as well.