In October 1940, Aube and her parents find refuge from the Nazis in a villa outside of Paris. There she meets magician Varian Fry and his assistant, Danny Bénédite. Even in hiding, the group, which includes painter Marc Chagall, find ways to entertain themselves with art and music.
People come and go as the villa serves as a temporary safe haven. But in December, police raid the villa and take all the men away. Aube’s father is released a week later, but the group knows they must leave the villa forever. By the time Aube and her parents leave in February 1941, she holds her own museum of drawings by famous artists in her bag.
This story is based on the experiences of the author’s great-uncle, the real Danny Bénédite. A back matter section, “The History,” explains the true story and includes several captioned photographs. Also included is an annotated list of guests of the villa, endnotes, and further reading.
The text of the main narrative offers a challenging vocabulary. The illustrations are superb and capture the wonder of the villa and the danger of the times. The book adds significantly to the canon of Holocaust books for children and demonstrates there is good at the same time as evil.
Recommended for ages 8 to 10.
Barbara Krasner is a doctoral candidate in Holocaust & Genocide Studies at Gratz College and is Director, Holocaust, Genocide & Human Rights Center at Mercer County Community College. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.