What You Need to Know:|
• This is a powerful and important book, to be read by young adults and adults alike.
• It is a work of historical fiction, based on the author's mother's story of immigrating to America during the Holocaust.
• This is a heavy book, so take your child's maturity into consideration. I would say fifth grade is the absolute
youngest who should be reading this, and a mature fifth grader at that, and not without lots of conversation.
• This should not be limited to Holocaust units only, this story is universal to all immigrants.
This book has my trifecta for good literature: it is really well-written, the story may be Edith's but the result is universal, and, finally, the story is so compelling you can't put the book down. Edith's story starts in a small German village during WWII. Edith and her parents are but a few jews who live in this village, although that has never been an issue - until now. Suddenly, with Hitler's anti-semitism ripping through the country, Edith's parents realize it is time to get out. Unfortunately, it is too late for her parents to get papers to allow them to leave, so Edith travels to America alone. This is her account of leaving all she knows and loves and assimilating into a strange and foreign land. Edith's voice is so honest. She worries about the larger issues of what she is facing on a global level, but she also worries about what every 12 year old girl worries about: menstration, boys, etc.
The author, herself a daughter of such an immigrant, wanted to tell this story from a 12 year old's perspective. She also wanted to tell the story of a little known program called "One Thousand Children." During the war, the Allies did what they could to get children out of Germany, and later Europe, when they realized the atrocities going on. Great Britain had a program that saved 10,000 children, called Kindertransport. America's program was much smaller by comparison, run by Lutheran, Quaker and Jewish organizations and saved just over one thousand children. The author's mother was among those children.
This book can (and should!) be read by all, regardless of gender, race, or religion. As mentioned, it would be a shame if this story was limited to a Holocaust study, because Edith's story may take place during WWII, but it universally applies in today's world. With immigrants from all over seeking shelter from autocratic rules and horrible civil wars going on in third-world countries, very unfortunately this story remains very current. Take the title. The author explains in her afterword that she took the title from something a Sudanese child refugee, one of the "Lost Boys", said when he arrived in America in 2001. When confronted with a new world, new surroundings, things they had never seen before, one of the young boys looked out the airport window in Mineapolis on a dark and snowy night and asked a most basic question of his host, "Excuse me. Can you tell me, please, is it now night or day?"
Really, this is something for all of us to reflect on: to leave the comfort of what we know, even under the most dire circumstances, and to be taken to a place of safety, but to not even know if it is night or day? How utterly heartbreaking is the child immigrant experience. Even in the name of saving them, these children are still facing overwhelming challenges.
Fern Schumer Chapman
2010, 224 pages
War, Discrimination, Life Challenges, Good Book Club Selection
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