Karen Ackerman has written over 25 books for young readers. Her books have won many awards including ABA Pick of the List, ALA Notable Books, Children's Book Council/NCSS Notable Books in the Field of Social Studies, New York Library Best List, Horn Book's Best, and School Library Journal Best Books. Her picture-book Song and Dance Man, illustrated by Stephen Gammell, won the 1989 Caldecott Medal.
Set in Austria in 1938, Ackerman's ( Song and Dance Man ) tale of a Jewish family's escape to Switzerland is long on drama but somewhat short on facts. When Clara's father decides the family must leave their home in Innsbruck, he begins by selling their valuables--except for an heirloom pair of silver Sabbath candlesticks. He uses the money to arrange for the family to travel to Switzerland, on foot; they will tell the border guards that they are Swiss citizens returning from an Austrian holiday. They hide the candlesticks in Clara's sister's petticoats--but the silver clinks. Clara saves the day by suggesting that they hide the candlesticks inside her two straw-filled dolls, and then she cleverly and courageously evades the Nazi guard who asks her a trick question about her toys. The plot has plenty of heartstopping moments, and the story line about the dolls is sure to engage many. Given the neatly established premise, it is a pity that the historical details are treated lightly. For example, Ackerman throws in casual references to ``the Resistance,'' and much is made of the yellow stars sewn to the characters' coats (the stars were not introduced until 1941). Illustrations not seen by PW. Ages 7-10. (Apr.)
"An excellent fictional introduction to the Holocaust."--School Library Journal
Gr 3-4-Clara treasures the two antique dolls that came with her grandmother when the family fled from the pogroms in Russia to Austria. Now the family is planning to escape from Nazi-occupied Austria, and Clara intends to take them with her. When Mama sews her treasured silver candlesticks into the petticoat of her oldest daughter, they make noise and Papa is afraid they will clank and alert the border guards. Clara then suggests hiding the candlesticks in the dolls' straw stuffing since this is their second ``night crossing,'' and they are not afraid. This is a suspenseful escape story written for transitional readers. The danger is clear but not belabored. The stress is on the family's closeness and courage. The dolls and candlesticks are tangible representations of continuity and tradition, which comfort and sustain the family. An epilogue reveals the fate of the Jews who did not escape, including Clara's grandmother. Ackerman's writing is clear and direct; despite its simplicity, it is never banal. This is an excellent fictional introduction to the Holocaust that is slightly easier to read, but for the same audience as, Claire Bishop's Twenty and Ten (Peter Smith, 1984). It will also be a good choice for less proficient older readers wanting World War II novels.-Louise L. Sherman, Anna C. Scott School, Leonia, NJ