The book is subtitled "A Holocaust Remembrance Book for Young Readers". It may be written for young readers, but I have to say it kept me very interested from beginning to end. Myself and my four oldest daughters (ages 10-17) read this book and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. It is written at a level that even my 9 year old son could easily follow, I just haven't handed it over to him yet :) Like I said, even though it is written so that a fourth grader can follow it, none of us were bored by the story or the level of writing.
The story follows the author's mother and aunt as young Jewish girls living in Hungary during the war. Their father is taken away to a labor camp, leaving them at home with their mother and baby brother. Finally their mother agrees to send them away to a Catholic convent for safe keeping. They join 100 other Jewish girls to live out the days of the war in the hills around Budapest, right by a Nazi outpost.
The story is mainly about Susan and Vera and their life in the convent. We see how the religious sisters in the convent risked their lives for these Jewish girls and how the Jewish girls bonded with each other and with the Sisters. They always have to be very careful so as not to draw attention to the convent. A few of the climactic points of the book tell about what happens when the Sisters find an unexploded bomb in one of their buildings as well as the time when the Nazis show up to search the convent for Jews.
A few thoughts went through my mind while reading this book. It made me realize that as I was reading it, all I had to do was to switch the word Jew for Catholic and I could see the same thing happening in today's world. There was a part in the book where Susan, while on her way to the convent for safe keeping, has this experience:
"She glanced through a large cafe window they were passing. Elegantly dressed men and women sipped their early morning espresso. At one table, a girl about Susan's age sat laughing with her parents. A mixture of longing and resentment filled Susan. The muscles in her throat tightened and she found it difficult to swallow. She, too, ought to be able to sit there with her parents."The part that got to me was the "elegantly dressed men and women sipped their early morning espresso". Here we have Jews being taken away from their families and either worked to death or murdered, and people are sitting in cafes sipping their early morning espresso. The image sent a chill down my spine. Isn't the same thing happening in our country today?
Overall, I would say that this was a very well-written and interesting book. It would make a great Read-Aloud, too. I think that any average fourth grade reader on up could read this on his/her own. We followed up our reading and discussions of this book with the movie of "The Diary of Anne Frank". It was a great little unit study.