by Andrea Cheng

A serious young boy has to learn to take a stand for his own well-being. In 1952 eight-year-old Peti's Hungarian relatives come to live with his family in America. His older cousin Gabor is a sullen boy who argues with his parents and bullies Peti. Peti's only escape is to the local library, where he reads about everything from the solar system to pinhole cameras


A serious young boy has to learn to take a stand for his own well-being. In 1952 eight-year-old Peti's Hungarian relatives come to live with his family in America. His older cousin Gabor is a sullen boy who argues with his parents and bullies Peti. Peti's only escape is to the local library, where he reads about everything from the solar system to pinhole cameras and secret codes. Peti wants Gabor to move out, but Uncle Jozsef can't find a job, and Peti's mother has to find work instead. The landlady is threatening to evict them, and the boys in the neighborhood are dreaming up trouble. To top it all off, Peti's mother worries constantly about her father, who is behind the Iron Curtain in Hungary. When the librarian invites Peti to go with her on a tour of the Rankin House, once a stop on the Underground Railroad, the day trip turns into much more than a chance to get away from tension at home. Peti comes back with a new understanding of friendship and family, new insights about human nature, and a new resolve to stand up for himself.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Fans of Cheng's Marika will welcome this quiet yet deeply moving novel set in 1952 and narrated by Marika's son, Peti, an inquisitive, thoughtful eight-year-old. Though his parents have safely emigrated from Hungary to Cincinnati, Peti notes that his father remains keenly interested in news broadcasts about the Korean War: "Papa wants us to be ready in case something bad happens like another war with the Nazis. The Nazis almost killed Mom and Papa, but they don't like to talk about that anymore." The family frequently does discuss, however, Peti's beloved maternal grandfather, Apa, who is still living behind the Iron Curtain; as a former stockbroker, he is considered suspect and has been removed from his home and sent to live on a farm 60 miles outside of Budapest. Though Peti and his parents long for Apa to obtain a visa to America, instead other relatives from Hungary move in with them: Peti's paternal aunt, her husband and their sulky 12-year-old son, Gabor. When the uncle cannot land a job, Marika must find work. Rather than spend time with the mean-spirited Gabor, Peti takes refuge in the library, where the kind librarian eases his loneliness. Through Peti's credible voice, Cheng insightfully explores multiple themes and motifs, among them hope, light, escape, family, friendship and self-reliance. Ages 8-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Judy DaPolito
It is the summer of 1952 and eight-year-old Peti, a boy brimming with questions about the way the natural world works, has lived comfortably in Cincinnati since he was a baby. His parents are Hungarian immigrants who escaped to Australia and then got visas to come to the United States. Now his father's sister Olga, her husband, and their twelve-year-old son Gabor have finally obtained visas and are on their way to live in the two-bedroom apartment with Peti's family untill they can get established. Peti's mother yearns for her father, who has never seen his grandson but who writes to him from behind the iron curtain and sends him a special pen with an airplane that floats and turns in the water on its top. Peti loves the pen and is upset when his older neighbor, Steven, asks to use it and then takes it home. Soon after, Olga and her family arrive. Gabor turns out to be a sullen, angry boy who torments and injures Peti and hangs out with Steven and two other older neighborhood boys whom Peti is afraid of. Peti gets his pen back by stealing money from his uncle's suitcase and giving it to Gabor--at Gabor's insistence--but Peti is ashamed of his own behavior. When Peti's mother takes a job to keep the two families afloat, Peti avoids Gabor by spending his days at the library where Mrs. Malone helps him find books to answer his many questions. A day trip with her to the Rankin House, an important station on the Underground Railroad, gives him some insight into family relationships, and when Gabor admits to stealing his parents' money, the two boys work together cleaning their landlady's garage to pay it back. The book presents a sensitive and realistic portrait of a bright, trusting childcaught up in situations he does not understand. Emphasis on the grandfather's plight behind the iron curtain adds to the story's historical value.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-This thoughtful novel about Hungarian refugees living in Cincinnati in 1952 invites comparison with many situations in today's politically unstable world. Peti, 8, lives with his parents and is looking forward to having his aunt, uncle, and 12-year-old cousin join them in the U.S. How could he have known how cruel and disturbed his cousin would be? Or that his mother's worry about her father, still in Hungary and able to communicate only through letters with coded messages, would overshadow so much else in their family? The adults in this small apartment all have far too much on their minds to pay much attention to Peter, a curious, talkative child who is sometimes overly eager to please, and his first-person narrative conveys an authentic feel for some of the universal experiences of childhood. Significant plot elements include a friendly librarian, stories about the Underground Railroad, and the boy's growing interest in photography. All of these contribute to his gradual journey toward maturity and a stronger sense of himself. Peti is occasionally too good to be true, and there won't be a huge audience for this sensitive story. Also, the narrator is younger than the intended readership, something else that can get in the way of selling a book to kids. Yet, in its quiet way, this is a remarkable and original book.-Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Eight-year-old Peti doesn't mind giving up his room to his immigrant aunt, uncle and 12-year-old cousin Gabor. Peti prefers sleeping in his parent's room, where he feels safer. It's 1952, and Gabor's family has just escaped Hungary via Australia. The arrangement is anything but easy. Peti's uncle can't find a job; the "guests" outstay their welcome with the landlady; Gabor makes his displeasure with America known. As tensions rise, Peti begins to wish that it had been his loving grandfather Apa who made the trip instead of his sometimes mean cousin. Peti's mother Marika takes a job of her own and continues to try to get her father out from behind the Iron Curtain. Peti befriends the local librarian, and she takes him to visit Rankin House, a stop on the Underground Railroad. That small taste of history leads Peti to appreciate the ties of his own family. With this sequel to Marika (2002), Cheng continues to chronicle in fiction stories similar to those of her own family. Short, episodic chapters and poetic prose make this a good choice for those of a literary bent. (Fiction. 9-14)

Product Details

Highlights Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 2.20(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Andrea Cheng teaches English as a Second Language in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she lives with her husband and their three children. The daughter of Hungarian immigrants, she gew up among members of her extended family, many of whom survived the Holocaust. Her family spoke mostly Hungarian at home.

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