Lina is fifteen and lives with her family in Lithuania. They are a happy, normal family, until the night Soviet soldiers take them from their homes anLina is fifteen and lives with her family in Lithuania. They are a happy, normal family, until the night Soviet soldiers take them from their homes and send them away. Lina, her mother and brother are separated from her father and taken far North where they are forced to live in terrible conditions. Through their harsh treatment, lack of food, and the freezing climate, Lina finds strength in her art. She draws her feelings, using her illustrations as a record of her family's ordeal. She records the heartbreak and hardships of all those who were deported with her family, and manages to keep up hope even in the worst circumstances.
This is a really, truly wonderful book. I've read a lot about World War II and the terrible things that were done to the Jewish people, the Russians, and many others, but I had never heard about what happened to the people living in the Baltic States. These people faced mass deportations of the educated, upper and middle class, and those who had too many connections abroad. They were taken from their homes, forced into overfull cattle cars, and taken hundreds of miles away from their homes. The saddest part of their story is that it was kept silent for so long. Some of those who were deported weren't able to return to their homes for twenty years or more, and when they did, they were forbidden to talk about what had been done to them.
Ruta Sepetys' family is originally from Lithuania. Her parents were able to escape the country prior to the deportations, but many of their friends and family were not so lucky. Sepetys based Lina's parents on her own mother and father, and shed light on the untold story of so many people. This book would be wonderful for older junior high and high school students to read during a study of World War II or the Soviet Union.
Readers will quickly fall in love with Lina, her younger brother, and her incredibly strong mother. Sepetys writing style is straight forward and unapologetic. She shows readers genuine horrors in a matter of fact way that makes the reader feel part of the story. The people who were deported are forced to work together and to sometimes ignore things that would normally enrage them in order to survive. This powerful book made me cry multiple times and stayed with me for a long time after I turned the final page. I highly recommend it to those who don't know the history, who love historical fiction, and who just want a powerful story. ...more
Jennifer Roy's verse novel tells the story of her Aunt Sylvia's childhood in the Lodz Ghetto. Sylvia, then called Syvia, was one of only 8 children toJennifer Roy's verse novel tells the story of her Aunt Sylvia's childhood in the Lodz Ghetto. Sylvia, then called Syvia, was one of only 8 children to emerge from the Ghetto at the time that it was liberated by the Russians. Syvia is four and a half when her family is moved into the Ghetto and ten years old when she finally walks out to freedom. Throughout her time in the Ghetto, she witnesses horrors, loses friends, and must spend years hidden away from the Nazis.
This is a nominee for the 2011 Rebecca Caudill Award and a well deserving one in my mind. I didn't previously know any stories about the Lodz Ghetto. It was nice to read a Holocaust novel that tackled a new topic for kids. Hopefully lots of young readers, like me, will be compelled to do some research after finishing this novel. The author actually starts the research off for the reader with an excellent author's note. I always appreciate the chance to delve into a new realm of history, especially through fiction.
Syvia was a wonderful character. The short, verse style of the prose made her feel like a real child. Her thoughts were short, simple, and scattered, while still managing to connect into a coherent narrative. This is how I remember my brain working as a child, well frankly it's how it still works. The authenticity of her voice made the story more poignant for me as a reader. I also loved her older sister, mother, and father. They were a wonderful family who got each other through some incredibly tough times.
The fact that this is based on a true story made it more interesting to me. It also made it easier to swallow. There are a lot of parts throughout the narrative that I was thinking, "Just how lucky can this family be?!" When all the other children in the Ghetto were being rounded up and deported or people were dying of hunger and sickness, or disappearing off the street, this family managed to stay safe. Maybe not happy or comfortable, but together and safe. This would have felt like a stretch if the novel was entirely fictitious, but since it was based in truth, I was more able to follow the story and not focus on the unbelievable luck Syvia's family had.
Overall, this was a wonderful story that young readers will be interested in and a great opportunity for further research and discussion! ...more