For several decades, Orthodox Jewish publishers refrained from publishing Jewish children’s books about the Holocaust; this book is a welcome entry to the field. It illuminates the stark contrast in Hungary before and after the German invasion through the eyes of a young heroine.
Based on an actual person, Tuky is a six-year-old girl from a large, prosperous, religious Hungarian Jewish family that teaches its daughters how to embroider, its sons how to daven, and all to celebrate the Shabbos. Their family begins to host refugees fleeing from the neighboring countries invaded by the Germans. Soon it will be Hungary’s turn. The country’s former German ally has decided that in the waning days of World War II, Hungarian Jews will be their next victims. The Germans invade and proceed to round up as many Jews as possible for slaughter, but Tuky’s father has already arranged to split up his family and distribute them to peasants whom he has paid to board them as relatives.
The children are to masquerade as Christians with new identities, new old clothes, and beds of hay shared with other children in the family. Tuky, the eldest of the three youngest children, becomes responsible for her two little brothers, who are boarded at the farm next door. She watches over them, but in a fit of temper, the youngest child gives away their camouflage and they are imprisoned. By using her wits, the amazing Tuky saves herself and her two younger brothers from sure death. She never deserts her little brothers or Judaism, and she teaches her brothers how to silently say their prayers like their father. Despite close calls, hungry days, and worry, they all survive.
Prefacing the story are introductory pages presented as in a play, introducing the main characters, who are Tuky’s and her cousins’ families. The introductory page provides the English translation of the Hungarian words that appear in the story. The print should have been slightly smaller, as it is the size used for younger children’s books. The illustrations are similar to those in a graphic novel and there are some photographs.
Recommended for ages 8 – 12.