CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 8 . . . . December 10, 2004
Rebecca and Grandmother Esther watch the March wind blow flakes of snow across the moonlit garden.
"When I was a little girl in Vienna," says Grandmother Esther, "I remember an afternoon just like this one."
So begins a grandmother's story about her childhood experience under the tyranny of the Nazis. She recounts two tales. One is the story of Purim, the Jewish holiday that celebrates the defeat of an evil Persian tyrant by the Jews in the third century BCE. The other is the story of how a rabbi fends off the Nazis and finishes telling the biblical story to a group of children. At the end of the story the rabbi miraculously disappears.
The apparent attempt to draw parallels between the two stories does not produce the dramatic effect author Irene N. Watts intends. Purim is a tale of bravery and planning. Although the rabbi exhibits bravery toward the Nazi soldier, there is no reasonable basis for his unexplained disappearance. The conclusion of the story leaves the reader puzzled as to how the Purim story saves the rabbi, or what the connection is between them.
Kathryn Shoemakers's illustrations demonstrate her artistic ability and her talent to interpret text. The blues and whites of the Vienna winter are contrasted with the dark browns of the Persian court. The detailed and abstract illustrations invite study. She indicates the pressure of time that was crucial to the victory of Haman through clocks that appear throughout the pages. The unsettling times are represented through unusual angles and disconnected images. However, placing the text at angles and using different fonts is visually disconcerting and make the story difficult to sort out. On a few pages, the brown background hides the finer font while on another the white snow obscures some letters.
This book can be used to tell the story of Purim and to relate the cruelty of the Nazis, but does not succeed as an effective piece of literature for children.
Recommended with Reservations.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any
other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.