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About the Author-
Monique Polak is the author of more than thirty books for young people. She is the three-time winner of the Quebec Writers' Federation Prize for Children's and YA Literature for her novels Hate Mail, What World is Left and Room for One More. In addition to teaching at Marianopolis College in Montreal, Monique is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in Maclean's Magazine, the Montreal Gazette and other Postmedia newspapers. She is also a columnist on ICI Radio-Canada's Plus on est de fous, plus on lit! In 2016, Monique was the CBC/Quebec Writers' Federation inaugural writer-in-residence. Monique lives in Montreal.
October 13, 2008
Anneke Van Raalte is 14 when the Germans deport her family from Holland and send them to Czechoslovakia—because they are Jewish. Despite constant hunger, severe crowding and other deprivations, Anneke, the narrator, is repeatedly told how lucky she is to be at the concentration camp Theresienstadt, which lacks gas chambers. Her father, formerly an illustrator for a Dutch newspaper, occupies an important position in the camp and can protect the family from the worst fate, being sent on a transport “east” (she eventually learns a transport almost invariably means death). But Anneke wonders at the justness of her father's behavior, particularly when he participates in the commandant's “embellishment” program, designed to trick the Danish Red Cross when it comes for an inspection—and, when that plan succeeds, to make a propaganda film. Polak (Scarred
) bases Anneke's experiences on those of her mother's; while convincing generally, her writing shies from the extremities of camp existence. What it does offer is a candid look at a father's presumed collusion, a perspective rarely seen in YA literature about the Holocaust. Ages 12–up.
April 1, 2009
Gr 5-8-Forced to leave their privileged life in Holland, Anneke and her family are transported to the "model city" of Theresienstadt. Her father is a well-known painter/artist and is ordered to create much of the artwork for the pleasure of the Nazi officers in charge of this "unique" concentration camp. Anneke's forced labor in the kitchen is less brutal and harsh than some of the other assigned duties, and this once-spoiled 14-year-old learns that survival motivates any kind of work and conditions. But when her father begins to create a false series of signage and backdrop scenes to use as part of Hitler's documentary on the camp to falsely represent the "good" treatment and conditions of the Jews imprisoned there, Anneke has difficulty understanding his rationale. Her father's continual mantra is "the important thing is that we are together." As she watches the weekly transport orders of her companions to what she understands are the death camps, Anneke learns that sometimes placing one's ethics and values aside may be the only way to survive. Yet, once she discovers the artists' depictions of the camp's truly barbaric status, she develops a greater appreciation for her father's role. This often graphic and realistic novel, written in memoir format, raises questions of moral principles and beliefs while it portrays the horrors of the Holocaust."Rita Soltan, Youth Services Consultant, West Bloomfield, MI"
Copyright 2009 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
Starred review from December 15, 2008
Grades 7-12 *Starred Review* Growing up in a secular Jewish home in Holland, Anneke cares little about Judaism, so she has no faith to lose when, in 1943, her family is deported to Theresienstadt, the Nazi concentration camp. At 14, she suffers backbreaking labor and foul, unsanitary conditions along with more than 40,000 prisoners, who are all crowded into a town built for 7,000. Always there is the terror of being sent on the dreaded transports to the gas chambers. Based on the experiences of the authors mother, who survived two years in Theresienstadt butdid not speak about it for more than 60 years, this novel is narrated in Annekes first-person, present-tense voice. The details are unforgettable: Annekes irritation with her pesky little brother; her friendship and romance with young people who are sent, later on, to the death camps; the hunger that drives her and her grandfather to eat the enamel in their cups; her shame and anger. The questions raised in the authors note will lead readers back to the parallel, heartbreaking issues in the fictional story. Why didthe authors mother keep silent for so long? Was she ashamed that she survived because her father, a famous artist, helped the Nazis by prettying up the model camp for aRed Cross inspection? And why did the Red Cross fall for it? An important addition to the Holocaust curriculum.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2008, American Library Association.)
March 15, 2022
Anneke Van Raalte's nonpracticing Dutch Jewish family is sent to Theresienstadt, a concentration camp that the Nazis try to pass off as a model settlement. Fourteen in 1943, she lives through two years of scarce food, bedbugs, forced labor, and little privacy. Still, life here is preferential to being transported to death camps like Auschwitz, a fate suffered by many, including her best friend and the boy with whom she falls in love. Her family survives, but the Russian liberators and Dutch military are later suspicious: Did her father's artistic work keep the family alive? Anneke struggles with these thoughts. She details the Nazis' grandiose plans for the Embellishment, a facade created to fool the 1944 Danish Red Cross committee, which included her father's fairy-tale murals in the children's infirmary. In this first-person narrative, Anneke is keenly aware of the moral choices her father and other artists make even as they create clandestine drawings documenting their true plight. This novel, based on the author's mother's memories and a book by her maternal grandfather, cartoonist and illustrator Jo Spier, explores the situation of artists who were used by the Nazis to help cover up their heinous crimes. Originally published in 2008, this edition includes a new preface and references. Polak writes authentically, including appropriate details about the camp's horrors and insights into her protagonist's conflicted feelings about friendship, romance, family, and religion. An unusual Holocaust novel told through the eyes of a cognizant, questioning teen. (author's note, organizations) (Historical fiction. 12-16)
COPYRIGHT(2022) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
- VOYA Well written, thought provoking, and a solid addition to the canon of Holocaust fiction - perfect for reading lists and teens who enjoy historical fiction.
- School Library Journal [This] realistic novel, written in memoir format, raises questions of moral principles and beliefs while it portrays the horrors of the Holocaust.
- Publishers Weekly [Offers] a candid look at a father's presumed collusion, a perspective rarely seen in YA literature about the Holocaust.
PublisherOrca Book Publishers
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