The Bear Makers

Andrea Cheng
  • Review
By – January 16, 2012
While Kata’s fam­i­ly has sur­vived World War II in Budapest, there is still fear of arrest from the Secret Police and liv­ing con­di­tions remain dif­fi­cult. Papa’s fac­to­ry has been con­fis­cat­ed, his salary has been dras­ti­cal­ly reduced, and he slips deep­er and deep­er into depres­sion. Mama secret­ly sews bears and hand­bags on the black mar­ket to bring in extra mon­ey. And, Kata’s beloved old­er broth­er Bela dis­ap­pears on an excur­sion” and no one knows when they will see him again. It is unlike­ly that read­ers will have the nec­es­sary back­ground knowl­edge about the ide­ol­o­gy of the Worker’s Par­ty, social­ism, and the impact of the war on the Hun­gar­i­an Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty to under­stand the con­text of Kata’s life. The nar­ra­tive, while well-writ­ten and com­pelling, does not pro­vide enough infor­ma­tion and an author’s note or after­ward is miss­ing. Read­ers will cer­tain­ly relate to Kata — her love of the stuffed bears that her moth­er makes and her deter­mi­na­tion to help with the sewing, her con­flicts with her best friend, and her appre­hen­sion about singing a solo — but out­side of a class­room or book club dis­cus­sion, the con­text of the Jew­ish expe­ri­ence in post-War Hun­gary will unfor­tu­nate­ly be lost. For ages 9 – 12.

Rachel Kamin has been a syn­a­gogue librar­i­an and Jew­ish edu­ca­tor for over twen­ty-five years and has worked at North Sub­ur­ban Syn­a­gogue Beth El in High­land Park, IL since 2008, cur­rent­ly serv­ing as the Direc­tor of Life­long Learn­ing. A past chair of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Award Com­mit­tee and past edi­tor of Book Reviews for Chil­dren & Teens for the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries News & Reviews, her arti­cles and book reviews appear in numer­ous pub­li­ca­tions. She has been a mem­ber of the Amer­i­can Library Association’s Sophie Brody Book Award Com­mit­tee since 2021.

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