I Will Come Back For You: A Fam­i­ly in Hid­ing Dur­ing World War II

Maris­abi­na Russo
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By – January 10, 2012
When Nonna’s grand­daugh­ter asks her why she nev­er removes her gold charm bracelet, Non­na says it’s because the charms tell the sto­ry of her child­hood. Begin­ning with the tiny don­key charm, Non­na explains the mean­ing of each one. Before Italy joined the side of the Ger­mans in World War II, Non­na, her broth­er Rober­to, and their par­ents had a hap­py life in Rome. But every­thing changed after Papa and oth­er for­eign-born Jews were ordered to leave their fam­i­lies and move to a vil­lage in the moun­tains. Now there were no more vis­its to the park for don­key rides, pup­pet shows and ice cream; no more lis­ten­ing to Papa sing and play the piano after din­ner. For a while, the fam­i­ly vis­its Papa on week­ends but when he learns that the Ger­man would soon send all the Jew­ish men to a con­cen­tra­tion camp, he slips away to join the par­ti­sans. When the police threat­en to take Mam­ma in his place, she also goes into hid­ing, leav­ing Non­na and Rober­to in the care of a kind fam­i­ly. The chil­dren are soon smug­gled out of the vil­lage and brought to Mam­ma who is work­ing on a farm high up in the moun­tains. No one there sus­pects they are Jews. When the war is over, Mam­ma learns that Papa has been killed by Nazi sol­dier and she decides they will start a new life in Amer­i­ca. The folk-art illus­tra­tions, paint­ed by the author, evoke the time and place. A glos­sary, after­word and orig­i­nal black and white fam­i­ly pho­tographs used for the end sheets pro­vide more details about this true sto­ry. Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 5 – 9

Susan Kan­tor was a senior writer/​editor for Girl Scouts of the USA, a chil­dren’s book edi­tor, and a past judge for the Nation­al Jew­ish Book Awards in the illus­trat­ed children’s book cat­e­go­ry. She is a writer and a docent at the Rubin Muse­um in New York City, where she leads pub­lic and pri­vate tours.

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