Susan Goldman Rubin’s work does much to broaden young readers’ understanding of the Holocaust. Again she succeeds with this sensitive and passionate non-fiction book on a little known Holocaust era figure. While Rubin was researching for her award-winning book, Fireflies in the Dark: The Story of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis and the Children of Terezin, she attended a performance of Brundibar, the children’s opera staged at Terezin. In the elevator, she recognized Ela Weissberger as a woman who as a child had played the cat in the Terezin production. From that chance meeting, after years of communication and collaboration, this book evolved.
Using photographs, along with fullcolor drawings by the children of Terezin, Rubin presents a poignant, matter-of-fact account of what it was like for Ela to be a Jewish child living with fear, yet able to escape for hours at a time through the power of friendship, music, art and learning. Rubin, who also wrote The Children of Terezin (2000) for older readers, never glosses over the daily threat of transports and the fact that some of the prisoners did not survive. But she also documents that, even in that traumatic time, devoted adults and determined children could forge close bonds, using art and music to help them endure and even grow. Includes numerous interviews with Weissberger and others, detailed source notes, print and non-print resources, and an index. Ages 9 – 12.