Poet­ry

Paper Hearts

Meg Wiv­iott
  • Review
By – April 20, 2016

http://​www​.jew​ish​book​coun​cil​.org/​s​u​b​j​e​c​t​-​r​e​a​d​i​n​g​-​l​i​s​t​/​s​t​a​r​r​e​d​-​c​h​i​l​d​r​e​n​s​-​r​e​views Paper Hearts by Meg Wiv­iott | Jew­ish Book Coun­cil

Paper Hearts weaves togeth­er the lives of two young adults as they strug­gle to sur­vive the Holo­caust. The sto­ry begins with Zlat­ka, a sev­en­teen-year-old grow­ing up in com­fort, who sud­den­ly finds her­self sur­round­ed by hatred and fear as her town falls to the Nazis. Her free­dom is stripped away, one painful lay­er at a time. For­mer friends turn their backs on Zlat­ka and her fam­i­ly, then jobs and school become for­bid­den and final­ly, the fam­i­ly is forced to board a train that car­ries them, along with cat­tle-cars filled with oth­er Jews, far away from every­thing they’ve ever known. The sto­ry then focus­es on Fania, just six­teen when the Ger­mans arrive in Poland. Her path fol­lows Zlotka’s in the begin­ning, but Fania is sent to prison ear­ly on. When she returns, she dis­cov­ers her fam­i­ly has dis­ap­peared. Soon after, both Fania and Zlat­ka wind up at Auschwitz, where Fania and her younger sis­ter are sep­a­rat­ed from their fam­i­ly, nev­er to see them again. When her younger sis­ter falls ill, she is tak­en away, and Fania seeks com­fort from a small group of girls. She and Zlot­ka form a close bond, each sup­port­ing the oth­er, forc­ing each friend to do what­ev­er it takes to survive.]

Paper Hearts shows the dai­ly hor­rors of life in Auschwitz. What makes this sto­ry stand out above oth­er Holo­caust accounts is that it is told com­plete­ly in verse. Author Meg Wiv­iott cap­ti­vates read­ers with her amaz­ing abil­i­ty to relate the hor­ror, the fear, and the small tri­umphs of Zlat­ka and Fania as they help each oth­er fight to stay alive. The ulti­mate act of defi­ance, spear­head­ed by Zlat­ka, is the inspi­ra­tion for the book’s title. When it is Fania’s twen­ti­eth birth­day, Zlat­ka ral­lies all of the girls in their block to help make a birth­day cake from com­bined bread rations and stolen but­ter and mar­malade. She also cre­ates a birth­day card — four pur­ple hearts glued togeth­er and signed by each girl, all risk­ing death to accom­plish this impos­si­ble feat. The card, now on exhib­it in the Mon­tréal Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al Cen­tre, and the sig­na­tures of the twen­ty women who signed it, are real, as is much of the sto­ry itself. Paper Hearts is a beau­ti­ful trib­ute to these brave women.

This remark­able book is high­ly rec­om­mend­ed. But, be warned: be sure you have plen­ty of free time. Once you start read­ing Paper Hearts, you won’t be able to put it down.

Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 12 and up.

Relat­ed Content:


Mar­cia Ber­neger is a retired teacher who lives with her hus­band and three crazy dogs. She taught both first and sec­ond grade, as well as spe­cial edu­ca­tion. She cur­rent­ly teach­es Torah school, in addi­tion to her vol­un­teer work in class­rooms, libraries, and with var­i­ous fundrais­ers. She lives in San Diego.

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