The large print and easy-to-read text of this early chapter book makes it a good choice to introduce the Holocaust to younger readers. In age-appropriate language, without gory details, the author communicates the sense of danger and desperation faced by these Danish Jews. The almost ten-year-old narrator, David, begins the story by telling us what life has been like since the Nazis invaded Denmark three years before, right before Passover. He has a warm, loving family: a father, who is a baker, a brave older sister, Rachel, who is a university student, and a supportive, kind mother. The author does a good job of developing the characters, and showing their bravery and the bravery of their non-Jewish friends. David smuggles a map in a box of éclairs to help Rachel with her work as a resistance courier around Copenhagen. As her mother prepares to make a honey cake to welcome in the new year, Rachel tells her that “A sweet year would be a year without Nazis.” Stuchner describes the rationing, how the Germans send most of the good Danish food to Germany, and how, as their freedoms and comforts are taken away from them and Hitler’s net closes in, “all Danes dreamed of the secret taste of freedom.” The story ends with their neighbors smuggling them to Sweden in September 1943 to escape Hitler’s orders to send all Danish Jews to concentration camps. In the Afterwords, the author describes the historical events upon which the fictional story is based, and states that the majority of Danish Jews were saved by their non-Jewish neighbors, like the Jensens of the story. Clever pen and ink, richly drawn illustrations will hold the attention of young readers in grades 3 – 5. The honey cake of the title symbolizes the normalcy of celebrating the Jewish holidays to which the family wishes they could return, and the author has included “Mama’s honey cake recipe for a Sweet New Year,” with careful instructions to have an adult help with the oven and preparations. Ages 8 – 11.
Andrea Davidson is the librarian of The Temple-Tifereth Israel in Beachwood, Ohio. She holds an M.L.S. from the University of Michigan and is a former member of the Sydney Taylor Book Awards Committee. She enjoys trying out the books she reviews on the kids at the Temple and on her grandchildren.