Chil­dren’s

Mem­o­ries of Babi

Aran­ka Siegel
  • Review
By – October 6, 2011
While her New­bery Hon­or Book, Upon the Head of the Goat, tells the sto­ry of her child­hood in Hun­gary dur­ing World War II and the sequel, Grace in the Wilder­ness, recounts her expe­ri­ences after lib­er­a­tion, some 20 years lat­er, Aran­ka Sie­gal revis­its her child­hood before the war. Focus­ing on the time she spent with her beloved grand­moth­er, Babi, who lived alone on a small farm just across the Hun­gar­i­an bor­der in Ukraine, Siegal’s nine inter­re­lat­ed sto­ries impart sim­ple yet valu­able lessons of faith, hon­esty, hard work, com­pas­sion, and courage. She paints a nos­tal­gic but real­is­tic pic­ture of coun­try life — gath­er­ing mush­rooms, spin­ning thread, bak­ing chal­lah, and pluck­ing chick­ens — but also expos­es the ten­sions between Chris­tians and Jews and the under­cur­rents of anti-Semi­tism, reveal­ing Babi’s fate at the hands of the Nazis at the end of the final sto­ry. The append­ed recipes add charm to this beau­ti­ful­ly writ­ten, delight­ful col­lec­tion. Ages 10 – 12.

Rachel Kamin is the Direc­tor of the Joseph and Mae Gray Cul­tur­al & Learn­ing Cen­ter at North Sub­ur­ban Syn­a­gogue Beth El in High­land Park, Illi­nois. A past chair of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Award Com­mit­tee, Rachel is cur­rent­ly the co-edi­tor of Book Reviews for Chil­dren & Teens for the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries Newslet­ter. She holds a BA in his­to­ry from Grin­nell Col­lege and a master’s degree in library and infor­ma­tion sci­ence from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michigan.

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