• Review
By – December 22, 2015

To mere­ly say that this is a sto­ry of how two nine-year-old Jew­ish boys sur­vived a win­ter in the Pol­ish for­est to which their moth­ers had entrust­ed them after lead­ing them out of the ghet­to, would be omit­ting the essence of this lyri­cal and some­what mag­i­cal sto­ry. The Rus­sians are advanc­ing and the ghet­to may soon be aban­doned or destroyed, its inhab­i­tants either killed or sent away to the camps. So, sep­a­rate­ly, two Jew­ish moth­ers send their nine-year-old sons to the for­est rather than have them killed by the Ger­mans or shipped to camps. After meet­ing in the for­est, the boys, for­mer class­mates, decide that they will wait for their moth­ers togeth­er, but their moth­ers do not come, not for a very long time. One of the boys is a child of nature, the oth­er schol­ar­ly and timid. Grad­u­al­ly, each begins to impart some of their per­son­al­i­ty and skills to the oth­er. They will devel­op a beau­ti­ful friend­ship. Before the win­ter sets in, the for­est has become a moth­er fur­nish­ing them with water, berries and nuts for nour­ish­ment. They learn new skills; they copy the birds and build them­selves a nest. Best of all, the mar­velous dog of one of the boys joins them. Bare­ly nour­ished in the win­ter, they are soon sup­ple­ment­ed by the brav­ery of a class­mate, an under­sized, non­de­script girl pos­ing as a non-Jew­ish peas­ant, who will be severe­ly beat­en when her farmer finds out. She is almost dead by the time she stag­gers to them as the Rus­sians are approach­ing. This tale recalls the lyri­cal tone and writ­ing style of St. Exupéry’s The Lit­tle Prince. Days turn into weeks, weeks to months and the sea­sons change from autumn to win­ter. Slow­ly, the tale offers the gifts of friend­ship that inspire gen­eros­i­ty, com­pas­sion and courage pre­sent­ed by each of the char­ac­ters to one anoth­er. Can you believe that their moth­ers return to them? The illus­tra­tions are light­ly sketched in col­ored ink and thin­ly paint­ed in water col­ors. Some are bet­ter than the oth­ers. Would that more were. The cov­er is won­der­ful. I felt mag­ic in those woods.

Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 9 – 14.

Relat­ed Content:

Mar­cia W. Pos­ner, Ph.D., of the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau Coun­ty, is the library and pro­gram direc­tor. An author and play­wright her­self, she loves review­ing for JBW and read­ing all the oth­er reviews and arti­cles in this mar­velous periodical.

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