VOYA - Betsy Fraser
Although Laura is not sure that a Bat Mitzvah will make her a grown up, she is sure that Rabbi Gardiner's twinning project, designed to remember children who perished in the Holocaust, is not something that she needs. Laura has more than enough to do, and she finds the thought of learning about a child who perished in the Holocaust very disturbing. Nevertheless she agrees to meet a friend of the Rabbi's, Mrs. Mandelcorn. Mrs. Mandelcorn gives Laura the diary of a thirteen-year-old girl, Sara Gittler, who spent World War II in the Warsaw Ghetto. Laura discovers several parallels between herself and Sara as she reads the diary. Laura must decide not only how to celebrate Sara's life in her Bat Mitzvah. but also to stand up for herself and decide what to do when an appalling act of vandalism occurs in the local Jewish cemetery. This Holocaust Remembrance Book for Young Readers is enhanced by photographs showing life in the Ghetto, both before and after the War. Sara's story is appealing, and the explanation of the twinning program is very well done. This book would be a good fit in both public and school libraries. Reviewer: Betsy Fraser
Children's Literature - Shelly Shaffer
In preparation for her Bat Mitzvah, Laura Wyman is asked to participate in a new program. The program asks Jewish boys and girls who are preparing to celebrate their mitzvahs to research a child who lived during the Holocaust and was not able to celebrate his or her own. Laura is reluctant. She tries to get out of doing the project, citing too much school work, the fact that she already completed a project for her Bat Mitzvah, and that she has no real connection to the Holocaust. The rabbi asks her to visit an old woman before making her final decision about the project. When Laura receives a diary from the woman and begins to read, she is drawn into the story of Sara Gittler, and Laura's outlook on life starts to change. This is a great book to go along with a unit about the Holocaust or for young people who are looking for service projects of their own for their mitzvahs. It provides a modern-day connection to the horrific events of the past. It is a quick and compelling read. Reviewer: Shelly Shaffer
VOYA - Teresa Copeland
As twelve-year-old Laura prepares for her Bat Mitzvah, she is given the diary of Sara Gittler, who lived in the Warsaw Ghetto. Sara never had the chance to celebrate her Bat Mitzvah, so Laura will honor her in a "twining," telling her story in the Synagogue. At first Laura is reluctant to take on the project, but as she reads the diary, she becomes more attached to what Sara and other Jews went through under the Nazis. Laura is also facing the fact that prejudice against Jews still exists, even at her school. Sara's story is presented as diary entries, revealed as Laura reads them. The book ends with accounts of actual twining ceremonies, additional information on the Warsaw uprising, and brief biographies of some of the important figures of the time. Many historical photographs of Ghetto life appear throughout, adding significant weight to the story. Although the story is an interesting one, Laura's portion fails to engage. Both girls' voices sound far too adult. In Sara's case, there is a possible explanation in the story. The author's desire to explain everything possibly unfamiliar about Jewish life to the reader chops up the story and becomes awkward and forced when coming from characters who should already know the information being explained. Sara's story, with the detailed description of daily life in the Ghetto, however, is ultimately compelling. Reviewer: Teresa Copeland
School Library Journal
Twelve-year-old Laura Wyman is preparing for her Bat Mitzvah, and the rabbi has given her class a special assignment. The students will "twin" with a Jewish child who, due to the Holocaust, never had the opportunity to celebrate this important milestone. When she tries to get out of the project, the rabbi gives Laura Mrs. Mandelcorn's phone number and asks that she visit her. The elderly woman gives the child a diary from 1941-1943, and Laura immerses herself in the gripping story of Sara Gittler, a girl living in the Warsaw ghetto. Kacer's text alternates between Sara's diary entries and Laura's present-day story. However, the plodding third-person narration for Laura is too descriptive, spelling out all of her thoughts and feelings. The writing in Sara's diary is much more fluid and compelling, which makes the book as a whole seem unbalanced. Secondary story lines involving school bullies and vandalism to the local Jewish cemetery are a bit contrived, and readers will realize that the diary belongs to Mrs. Mandelcorn much sooner than Laura does. Nonetheless, Kacer does provide an interesting, highly readable story of life in the Warsaw ghetto complete with historical photographs. Students participating in similar "twinning" projects will relate to Laura's discovery of how lessons learned from World War II can resonate today.-Rachel Kamin, North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Highland Park, IL
Jewish Book World
"The author beautifully melds historical events with the contemporary issues Laura is facing. Many photographs are included, which helps to bring the story to life. This story of history, faith, and hope belongs in every public and Judaic library and would be a welcomed addition to any Holocaust curriculum. Highly recommended for ages 11 and up."
"The photos throughout the book are well chosen and remind you that while the characters are fictional, the background isn't. In these days of Holocaust denial that's important...A good introduction to the subject for children...The language is simple and even reluctant readers should be able to manage it. Recommended."
"Sara's journal is so well-written that you forget it is historical fiction as you read. Kacer has effectively contrasted the lives of two Jewish girls, Sara in the Warsaw Ghetto and Laura in present day Montreal...Whether you read this novel for your own personal enjoyment or use it as a supplementary resource when teaching grade 6 social studies, this book is well worth reading. Highly recommended."
Canadian Children's Book Centre
"This book would be a powerful piece to include in Remembrance Day or World War II discussions and a wonderful way to honour the memory of those children who suffered through, were orphaned or died during the Holocaust."