Nicole is 17 when she leaves post-war France for the United States. Marilyn Sachs first told her story in A Pocket Full of Seeds (Doubleday, 1973), which described her experiences hiding from the Nazis after her parents and little sister were arrested, deported to Auschwitz, and killed. Her goal in coming to America is to build a new life, the kind her father and mother would have wanted her to have. But while it is far from easy to feel at home in a country bursting with abundance and ignorant of the kind of deprivation that Nicole has endured, she perseveres and at the novel’s conclusion, decides that “after being lost in America for nearly a year, I could finally think of it as home.” How this happens is chronicled in chapters that are labeled by the month, portraying with pathos and humor Nicole’s struggle to learn English, her adjustment to the unhappy family of relatives who have taken her in, her reunion with a friend who introduces her to the mysteries of dating and dressing, her spunk in getting a job as a typist when she doesn’t know how to type, and her discovery of banana splits! Through all the changes in her life, and her sadness that almost no one in America ever asks about her family, she finds a place for herself while remaining herself. Nicole’s triumph over formidable odds is shown to be achieved in little steps that will inspire admiration in the young teens who read about it. Her character is based on a real person, whom the author describes with affection in an afterword. Highly recommended for ages 11 – 14.
Linda R. Silver is a specialist in Jewish children’s literature. She is editor of the Association of Jewish Libraries’ Jewish Valuesfinder, www.ajljewishvalues.org, and author of Best Jewish Books for Children and Teens: A JPS Guide (The Jewish Publication Society, 2010) and The Jewish Values Finder: A Guide to Values in Jewish Children’s Literature (Neal-Schuman, 2008).