Lost in America

Mar­i­lyn Sachs
  • Review
By – August 6, 2012
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​.ajl​jew​ish​val​ues​.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).

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