Four Perfect Pebbles:: A Holocaust Story

( 35 )


 If she could find four perfect pebbles of almost exactly the same size and shape, it meant that her family would remain whole. Mama and papa and she and Albert would survive Bergen-Belsen. The four of them might even survive the Nazis' attempt to destroy every last Jew in Europe
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 If she could find four perfect pebbles of almost exactly the same size and shape, it meant that her family would remain whole. Mama and papa and she and Albert would survive Bergen-Belsen. The four of them might even survive the Nazis' attempt to destroy every last Jew in Europe
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Editorial Reviews

Elie Wiesel
Personal memoirs have no equal in their weight of truth and memory—[Marion Blumenthal Lazan's] have educated so many.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Amid a growing number of memoirs about the Holocaust, this book warrants attention both for the uncommon experiences it records and for the fullness of that record. Marion Blumenthal was not quite five years old in 1939 when her family fled Germany for Holland, ending up in the relative safety of Westerbork, then a refugee camp run by the Dutch government. They had visas for the U.S. and tickets for an ocean crossing, but during a fatal three-month postponement of their sailing, the Germans invaded Holland. By 1944 the Blumenthals arranged to be part of a group bound for Palestine in exchange for the release of German POWs; the family was instead sent to Bergen Belsen, where they remained, together, in the so-called Family Camp. Marion, her brother and parents survived the war, but her father died of typhus several months after liberation. Written in the third person, the book lacks the searing intensity of such memoirs as Ruth Sender's The Cage or Isabella Leitner's The Big Lie, also for this age group, but it is unusually complete, not only in its skillful presentation of the historical context but in its treatment of the Blumenthals' horrifying journey. Quotes from Lazan's 87-year-old mother are invaluable-her memories of the family's experiences afford Marion's story a precision and wholeness rarely available to child survivors. Ages 10-up. (Mar.)
School Library Journal
Gr 6-10-A harrowing and often moving account of the co-author's family's struggle to survive the Holocaust. Opening in Bergen-Belsen, the story retraces the events leading up to the Blumenthals' imprisonment there. After Marion's grandparents died, she, her brother, and parents left Germany for Holland to wait for a visa that would allow them to come to the U.S. Their papers came, but sailing was delayed and Hitler invaded Holland. The Blumenthals then applied to join a group that was to be sent to Israel in exchange for German POWs. Soon after arriving in Bergen-Belsen, however, they realized that they would not be exchanged. They survived the camp and their family remained intact. Ironically, Mr. Blumenthal died of typhus shortly after liberation. After three years as displaced persons, Marion and her mother and brother finally arrived in the U.S., where there were new adjustments to be faced. The story is told only partly from Marion's point of view. More often, it is told by an omniscient narrator. This tends to remove readers somewhat from the emotional impact of the story. Chilling facts and statistics, such as a description of the poison gas "showers," read like a textbook rather than a memoir. The information is solid and well presented, however, and through its personal-narrative format the book should reach readers who might not be willing to read such titles as Milton Meltzer's Never to Forget (HarperCollins, 1976).-Louise L. Sherman, Anna C. Scott School, Leonia, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
By the time WW II ended in Europe, the Blumenthal family—Marion, her brother Albert, and their parents—had lived in a succession of refugee, transit, and prison camps for more than six years, not only surviving but staying together, a phenomenon that Marion attributes to the power of her four lucky stones. After trying on several occasions to leave Europe, and after being shunted from camp to camp, they arrived in Bergen-Belsen, where conditions were so bad that nearly half the camp's population died of disease, starvation, exposure, exhaustion, and brutal beatings. Two weeks before the advancing Russian army reaches the camp, the Blumenthals suffered another terrible blow; they were bundled onto a train bound for Auschwitz. Only because the train was unaccountably delayed were its passengers found by the Russians and freed.

This gripping memoir is written in spare, powerful prose that vividly depicts the endless degradation and humiliation suffered by the Holocaust's innocent victims, as well as the unending horror of life in the camps. It's also an ennobling account of the triumph of the human spirit, as seen through a child's eyes.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380731886
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/21/1999
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 99,092
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 1080L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.66 (w) x 8.02 (h) x 0.32 (d)

Meet the Author

In Her Own Words...

"I was born in Brooklyn, New York, and had a very ordinary and uneventful (as it seemed to me) childhood. I read voraciously, but it never occurred to me that I would one day become a writer. For one thing, I had never met a "real, live author," as young people do nowadays in their schools and libraries. And, in any case, most of the writers I read in my growing-up years, like Charles Dickens and Louisa May Alcott, were dead.

"I didn't begin to publish juvenile fiction and nonfiction until my own children were in the fourth or fifth grades at school. I was stimulated by their expanding interests and by the realization that I had a great need to explore the longsilent world of my own childhood.

"Soon I was writing contemporary novels for middle-graders, among them the "Fat Glenda" series. I also became intrigued with the reaches and challenges of nonfiction. I ventured into the American culinary past with titles like Slumps, Grunts, and Snickerdoodles: What Colonial America Ate and Why (Clarion). And I traveled to distant Egypt to do on-site research for Mummies, Tombs, and Treasure (Clarion).

"When I met Marion Blumenthal Lazan and heard her speak about her experiences as a child survivor of the Holocaust, I knew that here was a story that had to be put into book form.

"As part of the Blumenthal family's six-and-a-half years under the Nazi yoke, Marion, her parents, and her brother spent fourteen months in the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen in Germany. This was the very camp in which Anne Frank had died ... and at the same time that Marion and her family were there. Anne Frank left us no writings of her life in the camps. But Marion was able to convey to us the details of daily life, and of death, in that place of most indescribable horror.

"When Marion told me about the "four perfect pebbles" that she sought to gather each day on the barren grounds of the camp, I felt that that would be the perfect title for the book. For the lonely and frightened nine-year-old, the sets of matching pebbles offered some kind of assurance that Mama, Papa, her brother, Albert, and she would survive Bergen-Belsen, if not the war-long effects of the Holocaust itself.

"It's a source of great pride to me that Four Perfect Pebbles: A Holocaust Story, which agreed to co-author at great emotional expense, is my fiftieth published book."

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

"Four Perfect Pebbles"

Long before dawn crept through the windows of the wooden barrack, Marion stirred in Mama's arms. She had slept this way, wrapped in her mother's warmth, for many weeks now, ever since her family had arrived at the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen in northwestern Germany.

All around her were the sounds of the other women and children, lying in the three-decker bunks that ran the length of the barrack. As Marion came awake, the muffled noises sharpened. There were gasps and moans, rattling coughs, and short, piercing cries. And there was the ever-present stench of unwashed bodies, disease, and death.

Hardly a morning passed without some of the prisoners no longer able to rise from their thin straw mattresses. When the guards came to round up the women and children for roll call, they stopped briefly to examine the unmoving forms. Later those who had died in the night would be tumbled from their bunks onto crude stretchers, and their bodies taken away to be burned or buried in mass graves. Soon new prisoners would arrive to take their places. As many as six hundred would be crowded into barracks meant to hold a hundred.

Mama nudged Marion. "Get up, Liebling. It's time."

As soon as Mama withdrew her arms, thin as they had become, the warmth vanished, and the chill of the unheated room gripped Marion's nine-year-old body. Cold and hunger. In her first weeks at Bergen-Belsen, Marion had been unable to decide which was worse. Soon, however, the constant gnawing sensation in her belly began to vanish. Her stomach accustomeditself to the daily ration of a chunk of black bread and a cup of watery turnip soup, and its capacity shrank. But the bitter chill of the long German winter went on and on.

On one of her earliest days in the camp Marion had actually believed that she saw a wagonload of firewood approaching. Perhaps it would stop in front of the barrack and some logs would be fed into the empty stove that was supposed to heat the entire room, for a few hours of glorious warmth. But she had been horribly mistaken. The wagon trundled past, and a closer look told her that it was filled not with firewood but with the naked, sticklike bodies of dead prisoners.

As on all winter mornings, getting dressed in the predawn grayness took no time at all. Marion had slept in just about everything she owned. All she had to do was to put her arms through the sleeves of the tattered coat that she had used as an extra covering under the coarse, thin blanket the camp provided.

Soon the cries of the Kapos (Kameradshaftspolizei, or police aides) -privileged prisoners who served as guards-were heard as they moved from barrack to barrack.

Zum Appell! Appell! RausJuden!"

Marion and Mama must now find a way to relieve themselves before hurrying to the large square, with its watchtower and armed guards, where the daily Appell, or roll call, took place. There was not always time to visit the communal outhouse, about a block away from the barrack. The toilets in the outhouse were simply a long wooden bench with holes in it, suspended over a trench. There was no water to flush away the waste, no toilet paper, and, of course, no privacy.

Some mornings Marion and Mama and the other prisoners had to use whatever receptacles they owned as night buckets -- even the very mugs or bowls in which they received their daily rations. Before leaving the bar-rack for Appell, the prisoners had to make sure the room was clean, the floor swept, and their beds made. Each inmate stood in front of her bunk for inspection. If the blankets were not tucked neatly enough around the sagging straw mattresses, punishments were meted out. The slightest infraction could mean losing one's bread ration for the day.

Roll call was held twice a day, at six in the morning and again after the prisoners had returned from their work assignments. It was held in winter and summer, in ice and snow, in rain and mud. If a single personwas missing because of sickness, death, or an attempted escape, all the prisoners were made to stand at attention, in rows of five, for hours -- even for a whole day -- without food or water or any way to relieve themselves.

Some prisoners did try to escape, but very few succeeded. Each section of the camp was surrounded by a high fence of barbed wire. The fence was charged with electricity and had pictures of death's-heads posted on it as a warning. Prisoners who attempted to scale the fence were electrocuted. Others who tried to escape while on a work detail, outside the fenced areas, were almost always caught by the watchful eyes of the armed guards, by keen-nosed police dogs, or at night by sweeping searchlights.

Marion hoped, as she did every morning, that the roll call in the square would be over as quickly as possible. Then, after dismissal, there might be a few moments to see Papa and her eleven-year-old brother, Albert, who were imprisoned in separate barracks in the men's section.

In Westerbork, the Dutch camp where the family had lived before, all four of them had been housed in crude but private quarters. However, no such arrangement existed for any of the prisoners in Bergen-Belsen. Actually they were told they should consider themselves "lucky" to be in the section of the camp known as the Sternlager, or Star Camp. Here male and female prisoners were allowed to meet briefly during the day. Also, they could dress in their own clothes instead of striped prison uniforms. But of course, they must wear the yellow Star of David high up on the left side of the chest, as they had been forced to do for many years now. In the center of the six-pointed star the word Jude (German for "Jew") was inscribed in black.

Four Perfect Pebbles. Copyright © by Lila Perl. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 35 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 35 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2014

    The main idea of this book is to show that even through really h

    The main idea of this book is to show that even through really hard times, if you show courage and bravery, you can make it through. I feel that the author’s purpose for writing this book is to show how close her relationship with her family was during this horrific time, and to show the hard life of Jews while living during the Holocaust. This book is sort of confusing, and I had a little bit of trouble trying to understand some of it as a thirteen year old, but I do recommend that you read this book. This book is very good and interesting. I will now tell you a little bit about this book. This book has details and pictures of the Blumenthal family’s life during the Holocaust. This book tells about the hard times that the Blumenthal family had to go through including torture, starving, being crammed on trains, treated poorly, and many more horrific things that life brought them during the Holocaust. It is told mainly by Marion and her mother, Ruth. Marion Blumenthal was a child when her family went through this tragic time. Her family was strong, courageous, and they stuck together as much as they could. The camps they had to go to sometimes separated them from each other. They eventually had the chance to reunite and when they did, they showed great love and compassion towards each other. I think that this is a good book because it describes the Blumenthal’s hard life. They had to travel from place to place and they had to adapt to each place as they went. They had to live in several different places, even trains. The concentration camps that they had to stay in weren’t very comforting, and the soldiers were very strict. “The only way we managed to survive in those early months of 1944-cold, hungry, and completely degraded-was on hope” This book is very good and interesting. Not only does this book talk about the devastating torture that a family was put through, but it also gives information about Hitler and the Holocaust. This book is very lovely, and I recommend it to teenagers and preteens.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2014

    Four Perfect Pebbles is a story about a family struggling throug

    Four Perfect Pebbles is a story about a family struggling through the Holocaust. It is heart-breaking yet a historical story. Marion Blumenthal Lazan is committed to speaking about her holocaust experience. This book is not very adventurous but it is greatly dealing in history.

    Marion was born in Germany and came to the United States. She married Nathanial Lazan. They live in Hewitt, New York. Today Marion is 79 years old. Marion’s family did what they absolutely had to do to survive. Even then Marion’s father died of typhus.

    She survived one of the most disastrous events in history. As did her mother. Being in and near Germany made it even more fearful because of the weather. The Jews probably felt that their lives were pointless during that time. The writing style of the book is perspective. “Even the very worst conditions at Westerbork were a heaven by comparison. For Bergen-Belsen was hell.” This book definitely achieves its purpose to tell a story about how exactly it was to go through such death. This book stands out from most books about the holocaust.

    I have read many other holocaust experiencing books and this one is the perfectly explained one. Marion and her family are forced to live in Nazi camps, both concentration camps and death camps. They find death and death finds them. They battle starvation and dehydration. They also travel very long distances for places worse than where they were before. It was a Nazi apocalypse. Overall this story is exactly what anyone would read about the Holocaust.

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  • Posted January 19, 2013

    I found this book uncommonly absorbing, for being written in a b

    I found this book uncommonly absorbing, for being written in a biography style. Mostly you will learn about many events from World War II, and how a true story was played out for the Blumenthal family.

    I expected the book to be okay, but as it turned out, I really enjoyed it! I truly recommend this book for anyone at all, who is interested in reading a real life Holocaust story.

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  • Posted May 10, 2010

    I Also Recommend:


    This was a very intriguing book. The character Marion was very real and lovable. the only problem was at the beginning, for the first five pages it was a detailed story. But it suddenly turned into a biography with out much detail. besides that it was a good book. I would recommend it.

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  • Posted July 25, 2009


    This was an amazing book for our whole family. We all really enjoyed the book. I once heard someone say that prejudice is taught and learned. If life is looked at openly and people learn to form their own opinions then this world would be a better place. People would then hopefully stop judging for all of the wrong reasons of which were instilled in them and have a more open outlook on life. We want our child and our family to look at things openly and especially for our child to look at things for what they are not to judge by the color of someones skin or their backround, or religious beliefs. This brought such great topics of conversation. Our children must learn the past so they can be openminded about our future.

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  • Posted April 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    It is amazing.

    Four Perfect Pebbles

    Patrick Cook

    I give these book four stars. I think this is one of the best Holocaust books I have ever read. Because this is the only Holocaust book I have read. But this makes me won't to read more Holocaust books. One of the reasons I like the book so much was because it was a true life story.

    The book is about this girl if she could find four perfect pebbles almost exactly the same size and shape it meant that her family would remain whole. Mama and Papa and she and Albert would survive Bergen-Belsen. The four of them might have even survived the Nazis' attempt to destroy every last Jew in Europe.

    Following Hitler's rise to power, the Blumenthal Family-father, mother, Marion and her brother Albert- were trapped in Nazi German. They managed eventually to get to Holland, but soon thereafter it was occupied by the Nazis. For the next six and a half years the Blumenthal's were forced to live in refugee, transit, and prison camp. Their story is one of the horror and hardship, but it is also a story of courage, hope, and the will to survive.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2008

    4 stars

    Today the author of this book, Marian Blumenthal Lazan, came to my school and talked about her experiences during the Holocaust. Some of us even got to eat lunch with her and ask questions. I haven't finished the book yet, but I would recommend this for anyone who is curious about the Holocaust and would like to read a memoir/first hand account.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2007

    A reviewer

    This was a great book. It makes you thankful for the little things in your life like heat and food. And it is one of the most heat moving holocaust books that i ever read!!! 'i have read a lot'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2007


    It was god, I got it in a book order. I thouht it would be a normal big book. But it is small and bad. It does not have a enough detail.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2007


    This book is soo amazing. I haven't finished it yet but so far I love it! This woman, Marion, is sooo wonderful! I just met her today. She came and spoke to my school and shared her hardships and experiences with us. It was definately a very emotional experience for everyone in the room. I know it changed my entire outlook on life and how I take everything for granted. I just have so much respect for her. And it breaks my heart that anyone could do that to any living being.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2007

    Very Good Read

    She came to my school a couple of years ago. She was wonderful. It was hard for her to talk about her experience. The book is fantastic. Very sad but it puts what life was like in the holocaust into perspective. I really enjoyed it. A very good read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2006

    Pretty Good

    I think that the book was so so. It was great about the facts it gave about the Holocaust but it wasn't as descriptive and pulled together as I think it should have been. But I would still recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2007

    four perfect pebbles

    This book is very poor. I usually like books but this one is not my favorite. Not enough details at all.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2006


    I first read this book when I was in the 6th grade. Ever since then it has stuck to my memory like a bad dream. Not to mean that in a negative way because I absolutely love this book. I would love to meet the author because this was absolutely brilliant. I am now in the 11th grade and I will recommend it to my friends if there is a project or report due on the Holocaust. At the end you feel a sense of bitter happiness but you feel hope for yourself. Beautiful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2005



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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2004


    this book dosent have enough details and is very confusing because her story sounds like its not in order.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2004


    This book is a verry good book.i liked it because it was verry detailed. It was a verry sad book...i think it was a sad book because the family did not have verry much to live for except their family.READ IT!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2004

    Really Interesting

    This book was a really great one. It was assigned to me for a World War 2 assighment and i never thought I would enjoy this book because I don't really like History that much. But once it started talking about Anne Frank it got me interested and i finished it in no time at all. It was very touching and I never knew so much horrible things happend at the time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2004

    four perfect pebbles

    this book is really confusing none of it is in order.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2003

    good book

    this book four perfect pebbles is the best book i ever read and i'm only 13 yrs old

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