by Maryann MacDonald, published 2013
“The heart is like an apartment,” Madame Marie tells me. “Every day you must clean it and make it cheerful…If you make your apartment extra nice, God will come to visit you too.”
Here is a breathtakingly beautiful children’s book about a breathtakingly horrendous episode in history: the Holocaust. I personally stay away from most Holocaust books, (other than Anne Frank) because I can’t stand the heartbreak. Thus I was stunned to see how delicately and honestly this children’s book portrayed the experience, albeit of a survivor who didn’t experience the hell of the concentration camps themselves.
The book is based fully on a real-life account of a young French girl who survived the deportation of Jews by hiding in the countryside as a Christian. However, the author has chosen to write the children’s book in first person, free verse, and I think that makes all the difference in the feeling it engenders. There is a delicacy about the voice of a young girl recounting her tale with innocence and honesty. It gives the face of humanity to what would normally be a faceless, inhuman portrayal of history. It also portrays the infinite amount of goodness that occurred as a counterpoint to the evil that arose at that time.
I can easily imagine this book being used in schools when children are studying WWII. I could also imagine reading it side by side with Anne Frank, as one girl is lost, and one survives, and we are left with a feeling of hope and possibility. By all means, share this children’s book with any child who is ready to confront the possibility of evil in the world, and the abundance of goodness as well.