Sometimes facing the past is the bravest act of all…
I didn’t know about my grandfather Felix’s scary childhood.
I found out what the Nazis did to his best friend Zelda.
I understand why Felix does the things he does.
At least he’s got me. My name is Zelda too. This is our story.
Lale Sokolov is well-dressed, a charmer, a ladies’ man. He is also a Jew. On the first transport from Slovakia to Auschwitz in 1942, Lale immediately stands out to his fellow prisoners. In the camp, he is looked up to, looked out for, and put to work in the privileged position of tätowierer – the tattooist – to mark his fellow prisoners, forever. One of them is a young woman, Gita, who steals his heart at first glance.
His life given new purpose, Lale does his best through the struggle and suffering to use his position for good.
This story, full of beauty and hope, is based on years of interviews author Heather Morris conducted with real-life Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz- Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov. It is heart-wrenching, illuminating, and unforgettable.
Twelve-year-old Carley Connors can take a lot. Growing up in Las Vegas with her fun-loving mother, she’s learned to be tough. But she never expected a betrayal that would land her in a foster care. When she’s placed with the Murphys, a lively family with three boys, she’s blindsided. Do happy families really exist? Carley knows she could never belong in their world, so she keeps her distance.
It’s easy to stay suspicious of Daniel, the brother who is almost her age and is resentful she’s there. But Mrs. Murphy makes her feel heard and seen for the first time, and the two younger boys seem determined to work their way into her heart. Before she knows it, Carley is protected the boys from a neighbourhood bullly and even teaching Daniel how to play basketball. Then just when she’s feeling like she could truly be one of the Murphys, news from her mother shakes her world.
Anne Frank, her parents, sister, another family, and an older gentleman were Jews in the Netherlands during the German occupation of World War II. These eight people hid in a secret alcove above a factory. Anne had a friend who listened to all her thoughts during the next two years. “Kitty” was her diary.
The Franks had lived in Germany. As the anti-Semitism sentiment took hold in that country, he and his wife left everything and moved their daughters to the Netherlands. In a few years they were not safe there, either. Finally, after Mr. Frank was called to report to the Germans, they went into hiding in the “Secret Annexe”. The Von Daan family joined them since the two men were business partners, and later, they included a dentist, Mr. Deusel.
Anne’s parents gave her Kitty on her birthday in 1942. Anne started writing in it very quickly, and took Kitty very seriously. They still were out in their home at the time, and the first group of entries deal with Anne’s private thoughts over school and her social life. The boys who were in love with her were discussed and described, as well as her reactions. Soon after her birthday, though, the family went into hiding. They stayed in the “Secret Annexe” over two years before they were found and arrested by the Germans. Of the eight residents, only Mr. Frank survived the concentration camps.
John Dante is so enmeshed in WW II’s patriotic fever that he can hardly wait for his 18th birthday, in 1942, to enlist. Meanwhile, his sister, stricken with empathy and concern, is engaged to two soldiers and pregnant by a third; Dad, a nuclear physicist, is called from Pittsburgh to California for secret research; and John falls sweetly, ardently in love with pretty Ginny, who urges him to become a conscientious objector. To John, her fervent pacifism is incomprehensible; but as he endures active combat, without relief, until 1945, stereotypes give way to the reality of the enemy’s humanity, and Ginny’s ideas become clear. Still, after his long immersion in horror, John never communicates with her again-until a message at the end of this novel, narrated in 1992 when he’s a retired professor in Canada: “I want you to know that I am really alive. And I still love you.” Yet John has not been “alive” as he might have been: a lifelong solitary, he was even driven from his home by the war (“I could not stay in America because America had not suffered”). Rylant depicts-with some irony and much insight and compassion-the tragedy of young men putting aside their true selves and fighting in a war in which they ultimately lose faith.