This book about two sisters living at Auschwitz is based on a true family story — authors Pnina Bat Zvi and Margie Wolfe are the sisters’ children.
Toby, the older of the two sisters, carries gold coins in a shoe paste tin. Two years earlier, on the night their parents were arrested, their father gave the girls the coins and told them to stay together, no matter what — that it would be their only chance for survival.
When Rachel, the younger sister, falls ill, the girls are separated for the first time. Using the coins, Toby bribes a guard to let her into the barrack where Rachel is being held and rescues her. As punishment, Toby receives a lashing. The sisters ultimately survive, and when the coins are long gone, they have kept their promise to their parents that they would stay together.
Illustrator Isabelle Cardinal does a fine job of showing the dissonance of the camp through her muted-tone collages. The shifting point of view is cumbersome, but the story, which emphasizes survival through sisterhood, is heartwarming.
Barbara Krasner is an award-winning poet and historian who focuses her writing on the Jewish experience in America and during the Holocaust. She teaches in the history department of The College of New Jersey and serves as Director, Mercer Holocaust, Genocide & Human Rights Education Center.