Fashion historian Adlington has fictionalized a little-known aspect of Holocaust history: the existence of a sewing studio at Auschwitz where twenty-three prisoners worked.
Fourteen-year-old Ella has been in Birchwood — a fictional concentration camp based on Auschwitz-Birkenau — for three weeks when she applies for a job at the camp’s Upper Tailoring Studio. She quickly demonstrates her exemplary skills, winning an impromptu competition to sew a dress for one of the guards. Sewing becomes Ella’s way to survive. When she forms an attachment to fellow studio worker Rose, they create an unbreakable bond. This relationship forms much of the narrative’s strength.
While backmatter about the historical facts that inspired the book would have been helpful, the story is fascinating.
Recommended for ages 12 and up.
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.