________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 1 . . . . September 7, 2001

cover The Secret of Gabi's Dresser.

Kathy Kacer.
Toronto, ON: Second Story Press, 1999.
128 pp., pbk., $6.95.
ISBN 1-896764-15-0.

Subject Headings:
Jewish Children in the Holocaust-Juvenile fiction.
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Ruth Scales McMahon.



I hadn't seen much of Jeremy since our school had closed, but I often thought about him. After Papa died and Jeremy paid all that attention to me, he and I became special friends. He sometimes carried my books when we walked to school, and he often waited after class to walk me home. With all the dangers to Jews on the streets, I did feel safer when Jeremy was around. Now I had no idea if I'd ever see him again, and the thought saddened me. Standing in front of me, telling me that he was going away, he had looked so awkward and embarrassed. Finally after a long silence, he had grabbed my hand and shaken it furiously, promised to write and run off before I could say a word.

I lay awake for what seemed like hours, my mind racing over and over the events of the day. In my mind's eye I could still see the soldier's stick swinging over my head. I could feel my heart race in terror as his cruel and angry voice shouted at me. I could hear Nina's voice interrupting his hateful bullying. I kept telling myself to calm down and breathe deeply. I was safe, for now. And I had to keep my wits about me if I was going to stay that way.

There have been many books published in the last decade on this subject, the inhumane treatment of Jews during the Second World War, but readers, don't dismiss this title. This story is framed by Vera and Paul's contemporary visit with their grandmother (Gabi). Paul and Vera's game of hide and seek leads to a discussion of the dresser that sits in their grandmother's front room and a recounting of their grandmother's experiences living in Czechoslovakia during the Second World War.

     When the war broke out, Gabi was living a comfortable life with her parents in Czechoslovakia. The story's drama builds as the Nazis move closer to her home and her father dies. Family and friends decide to flee, but, because Gabi refuses to be separated from her mother, they stay in their home. News reaches them that the Nazis are searching homes and taking away the young girls. Gabi says she will hide in the dresser. She tries hiding in the dresser and finds it terrifying. They agree to try again, but the next time Gabi hides in the dresser it is the real thing. The Nazis are in her home vandalizing everything, but, due to her mother's quick thinking and a little luck, the Nazis do not touch the dresser, and Gabi is spared.

     The opening contemporary scenes are less compelling than the bulk of the story set in Czechoslovakia. Once readers get through the first chapter, they are into an absorbing story about a piece of Second World War history that is new to young readers of this genre.


Ruth McMahon is a Storyteller and Library Consultant and Co-chair of the Rocky Mountain Book Award.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364