Tammar Stein’s The Six-Day Hero introduced readers to an Israeli family with three sons, the oldest of whom heroically lost his life in the Six Day War. This sequel focuses on the youngest son Beni, who must now watch his remaining brother, Motti, go off to war when the troops are suddenly called up to defend Israel as the Yom Kippur War erupts.
Beni has been having trouble adapting to his family’s move to a small moshav in the north of Israel from their long-time home in Jerusalem. He struggles to make new friends, adjust to a new teacher, and endure the bullying of a classmate. When the moshav is attacked in the war’s early days, Beni, his family, and all their neighbors run to shelters for protection against the falling artillery shells. War changes the social dynamics of Beni’s age group, as they begin to form more supportive and cohesive relationships at this frightening time. They are worried about siblings on the battlefield while they attempt to remain brave and helpful on the home front.
When Beni learns that Motti has been taken prisoner by the Egyptian army, he is grateful that his brother is alive but very worried about his treatment at the hands of enemy forces. He hears a prisoners’ swap is planned and decides he must personally make sure the swap proceeds without any snags. While his parents are away, he undertakes a perilous journey of several hours to visit the camp where the Egyptian prisoners are under guard in the hope he can make sure the endeavor is proceeding smoothly. Unsuccessful in his attempt to breach army security, he starts for home but finds his transportation options are now very limited and there is no easy way to return to his moshav before his parents return and find him gone. As he proceeds slowly toward home, an opportunity arises to show courage and use his skills to help repair a broken down truck which is impeding the prisoner exchange. Beni is overjoyed when his brother finally returns home and proud that he played a part in assuring his brother’s safe return.
Stein brings the tensions and terrors of war to readers who may now be able to better empathize with children facing wartime anxieties and fright. An important period in Israeli history feels immediate and real as readers accompany Beni through his travails and they share his fears for his family and community. It is empowering for children to read about the resourcefulness, ingenuity, and bravery shown by children of their own age group during challenging circumstances.
An author’s “Afterword” educates by sharing a brief history of the Yom Kippur War as well as its causes and after-effects, ensuring understanding and context.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A former librarian, she has lectured on topics relating to literacy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.