Set in World War II Slovakia, an unforgettable first novel illustrates the struggles of Katarina, a Jewish girl running from the Nazis and believing in the protection of the saints of her newly found Catholic faith. Reprint.
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Grade 6 Up-This book bears testament to the pernicious influences of insularity and superstition and to the courage of people who, in the face of danger, are willing to defend the helpless. Katar!na has been raised by her aunt, a free-thinking woman who has always scorned the constrictions of organized religion. She knows nothing of her Jewish heritage beyond the fact that she is Jewish. In fact, Katar!na is secretly being taught the Catechism by the family's maid and considers herself a devout Catholic. As the Nazis tighten their grip on the Jewish population, Aunt Lena finds a peasant family whom she pays to take in the girl. She is hidden for a time but, as the danger to the family increases, she is sent out on her own. After several near escapes, Katar!na makes her way to her former maid's family and is placed in a Protestant orphanage for the duration of the war. This is a difficult book, not only because of its subject matter, but also because it moves backward and forward in time and because the voice sometimes shifts from that of Katar!na to that of a person observing her. Then, too, an eight-year-old child must, necessarily, have had a confused understanding of the calamity that had befallen her. In spite of the challenges of its style, however, Katar!na is worth reading and begs for discussion. Winter has told her story with admirable evenness. Even the people unsympathetic to Katar!na's plight are given motivation. Readers are also aware of numerous characters who risked their own lives to help her. Many teachers, librarians, and parents should find ample use for this powerful book.
Miriam Lang Budin, Mt. Kisco Public Library, NY
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 7^-12. Katarina is eight at the start of this autobiographical novel about a Jewish orphan in hiding in Slovakia during World War II. At first, she is cared for by her loving aunt, but then they must part in anguish, and Katarina is sent to hide with a farm family. Forced to leave the farm, she wanders the roads until a Christian orphanage takes her in, and she stays there for the duration of the war. The pace is sometimes slow and the telling disjointed, but there is a dramatic immediacy in the child's bewildered view of the shifting realities she must get used to in order to survive. How do you find your voice when you have had to whisper for months? How do you find privacy in a crowded space? At the center is her confusion about her Jewish identity, especially when the kind Catholic maid takes the child to mass and secretly teaches her Catholicism. People are drawn with complexity; some hate her as a Jew; one Protestant nun and a German officer help her. Through her three years of wandering and hiding, her memories sustain her, but at the end, when she finally gets home, there is no one left alive. The writer now lives in California. Her story will move readers with its honesty about her survival and the horror she escaped. Hazel Rochman
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