• Review
By – November 14, 2011
It’s 1944, and Jut­ka Welt­ner, a four­teenyear- old Hun­gar­i­an Jew, spends her time with her friends, going to the movies and day­dream­ing about hav­ing a boyfriend. But with the inva­sion of the Ger­man army into Hun­gary and the onset of World War II, life is frag­ile and the future seems uncer­tain for Jut­ka and her fam­i­ly. Her father and broth­er Dez­so are vol­un­teered” for the forced labor reg­i­ment and are sent to an unknown des­ti­na­tion, leav­ing her moth­er in charge to care for Jut­ka and her grand­moth­er. With lim­it­ed food coupons, an enforced cur­few, and the fear of ridicule and abuse from the Arrow Cross sol­diers who enjoy mak­ing exam­ples of the Jews, Jut­ka lives in con­stant trep­i­da­tion. As new laws come into exis­tence, Jutka’s life takes a down­ward spi­ral; her priv­i­leges as an hon­or stu­dent are denied, she is forced to wear a six-point­ed canary yel­low star”, and her fam­i­ly is moved to a tiny apart­ment in the ghet­to. The fam­i­ly is then trans­port­ed to Auschwitz where Jut­ka is sep­a­rat­ed from her elder­ly grand­moth­er and weak­ened moth­er; she endures unimag­in­able bru­tal­i­ty from hard labor to end­less beat­ings, but dreams of her fam­i­ly in Cana­da give Jut­ka the emo­tion­al strength to sur­vive her night­mare impris­on­ment. Told in a strong first per­son nar­ra­tive, this heart-wrench­ing nov­el takes the read­er through a dif­fi­cult jour­ney as Jutka’s suf­fer­ings are inti­mate­ly and often graph­i­cal­ly doc­u­ment­ed. How­ev­er, what dif­fers in this Holo­caust title is the focus on life after the war, and how Jut­ka strives to find a place in the world after she has lost so much. Sim­i­lar to I Have Lived a Thou­sand Years by Livia Bit­ton-Jack­son, which also focus­es on the Holo­caust expe­ri­ence in Hun­gary, this book real­is­ti­cal­ly depicts the bit­ter­ness of war as told through the eyes of a young girl com­ing of age. Ages 12 and up.
Debra Gold has been a children’s librar­i­an for over 20 years in the Cuya­hoga Coun­ty Pub­lic Library Sys­tem. An active mem­ber of the ALA, she has served on many com­mit­tees includ­ing the Calde­cott, New­bery and Batchelder committees.

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