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4.0 6
by Andrea Cheng

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As a young girl in Budapest in the 1930s, Marika dreams of growing up to be a scientist or maybe an explorer. An older brother who never tells her anything, a beloved rag doll, an embarrassing mother, school, friends—Marika's life revolves around ordinary things until her father decides to build a wall in their home, creating separate living quarters for


As a young girl in Budapest in the 1930s, Marika dreams of growing up to be a scientist or maybe an explorer. An older brother who never tells her anything, a beloved rag doll, an embarrassing mother, school, friends—Marika's life revolves around ordinary things until her father decides to build a wall in their home, creating separate living quarters for himself. Why can't they live together, like her friend Zsofi's family?
Then, when Marika is fifteen, the Germans occupy Budapest, and war surrounds her. Her ordinary life disintegrates as her friends and family separate. Forced into hiding, Marika begins to understand the fragility and strength of the bonds among family and friends, and gradually she comes to terms with her shattered world.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this promising debut novel, Cheng sensitively mines her mother's experiences as the daughter of assimilated Jews in 1930s and '40s Budapest. Marika, age six, worries much more about her parents' separation than about her uncle's advice to change the name of her doll from Maxi to something "less Jewish": "Everything I had heard about being Jewish or not Jewish was crazy anyway.... Really, we were no more Jewish than [the nanny] or the cook." Apa, her father, advises her to think of herself as Roman Catholic, and Marika, who narrates, is happy to agree. Apa is strong and charismatic, unlike Marika's odd mother, who is so ineffectual that even Marika calls her by her first name, Anya. Cheng stays true to her protagonist's perspective as Marika comes of age over 10 cataclysmic years. While Apa and his brother anxiously track Hitler's rise in faraway Germany (and take measures to protect themselves), Marika reports on more personal indications of unrest-among them, her changing status at school, where kids start whispering that she shouldn't be attending mass, and the bullying by local boys near the family's country house that makes her regard her stay there as dangerous rather than restorative. The author inhabits the character so smoothly that her story reads almost like memoir; readers will almost certainly be moved by her evocation of Marika's lost world. Ages 10-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Marika and her older brother Andrew live in Hungary with their stockbroker father and mother. The Jewish family does not practice its faith, instead attending Mass and celebrating Christmas and Easter. The book covers a ten-year period as Marika narrates her life from age six through January 1945 and the end of World War II. Although at first Marika is too young to comprehend the full meaning of the war and certain adult situations, Marika's parents and brother later continue to protect her from the war as much as possible. When her parents separate over her father's affair with his business partner's wife, Marika is understandably confused. Her father builds a wall in their apartment, and he lives on the other side while his business partner's family lives downstairs. The loosely jointed story line might be appropriate to the age of the protagonist, but it is choppy, making the book appear disorganized rather than flow smoothly. The major problem, however, occurs with the sequencing of events. Individually titled chapters are followed by a date, including month and year, but there is a large gap between February 1940 and April 1944, the period between Marika's eleventh and fifteenth years. These missing years would make her most vulnerable as a character and would strengthen the book if included. Several errors in dating the chapters also create confusion for the careful reader trying to follow the story's chronological approach. The slightly odd cover artwork also does not seem to tie into the story line, its symbolic meaning lost to the reader. Additionally, the protagonist's vernacular might not be appropriate to the time period. Use of phrases such as "ungrateful brat" and "thanksbut no thanks" seems more modern than the novel's time period. Overall, the book is a disappointment and cannot be recommended. VOYA CODES: 2Q 2P M (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2002, Front Street, 160p,
— Mary Ann Capan
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8-In 1934, Marika is six. Her world in Hungary is very ordinary; her biggest concerns are school and the wall dividing her home into two apartments: one for her father, the other for her mother, brother, and herself. Although her family is Jewish, they live like Christians, celebrating Christmas and going to mass. As she grows older, the war comes closer, and she begins to feel its effects. When she is 16, the Nazis take over the country, and she poses as the Catholic niece of a family friend. Deceptively simple, the story, told in first person, captures a child's life as she grows into the realization of the horrors around her. Marika is a well-realized and sympathetic character, believable in both her childlike concerns and her more adult fears as the war affects her directly. Her family is realistically flawed, especially her beloved father, who has an affair with a neighbor's wife, yet does everything he can to shelter Marika from harm. At times the brevity of the story makes it seem rather disjointed, but Cheng brings Marika and her world alive with her simple prose, investing readers in the protagonist's life. There is a lot of World War II and Holocaust literature available for young people, but libraries needing a fresh voice could consider adding this intriguing offering.-Amy Lilien-Harper, The Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A child's-eye view written in beautifully spare prose gives a special quality to this historical piece. Marika Schnurmacher is six years old in 1934 Budapest, and she feels confused and helpless about many things. First, she arrives home from vacation to find that her father has walled off part of their apartment to live by himself. Although she sees him often, Marika longs for his return and can't comprehend why he has left. She also can't understand why the family's Jewish name and heritage is such a worry to her father and uncle; they practice Catholicism, after all, and when she tries to ask questions about the whispers she hears about Germany, nobody will answer. Marika spends her childhood reading voraciously and writing a story-Little Lord Schnurmacher-that mixes her own life and hopes with classic literature. Shame about her family's wealth and her odd mother hinders an outwardly peaceful relationship with working class, openly Jewish friend Zsofi. As years go by and WWII progresses, Marika loses her confusion-everything from war to family dynamics becomes painfully clear-but not her sparely written vulnerability. The last few chapters are about the family's separation and Marika's brief time in hiding, and then their reunion, pale and hungry, after Russian soldiers free Budapest from the Nazi occupation. Reading more like a series of vignettes than a novel, with a few distancing gaps in time and one distracting inconsistency (between the year and her age), Marika is a poignant emotional portrait. (Fiction. 10-14)

Product Details

Highlights Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x (d)
HL600L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Meet the Author

Andrea Cheng is the daughter of Hungarian immigrants, and grew up among extended family — all Holocaust survivors.
She lives in Cincinnati.

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Marika 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
WonLove More than 1 year ago
Making a choice is always a difficult thing to do. It may be easy like choosing a flavor of some ice cream but some choices are way more difficult than that, such as leaving your family and live or live with your family and suffer. Marika, the protagonist of Marika, by Andrea Cheng, has to make the decision similar to that. Only she doesn't decide it, but her parents force her to. This novel takes place during the years of Hitler taking over Europe. Marika's family lives in Budapest, Hungary. They are fairly rich but they are Jewish. In the beginning of the story, Marika's father and her uncle are with Marika, watching Marika forging fake identification papers for their family. Marika has the best calligraphy handwriting in her grade; which helped her to write all the identification papers as if they were written in the 1800's. Marika is a very young and immature child. Therefore, she doesn't know what is going around in the outside world. She isn't all happy or sad though; she has problems on her own. Her father had built a wall between the house; half the house for only her father and the remaining half for the rest of the family. That is not the end. The soldiers and the government announce that all Jews should wear the Star of David on their clothes so they can tell who is Jewish or not. Soon, Marika's family is separated all over Hungary. She is sent to her father's close friend's fiancé, Ilonka. Ilonka takes care of Marika and she is protected. They go on a sad but adventurous journey. Later, some of the neighbors of Marika die, but her family remains alive till the end of the war. The plot of the story is very smooth and the characters of the novel change noticeably in the novel. Also, the rich and interesting information about the war gives the reader more knowledge of the war. The adventurous story of the Jews during the hard times excites the reader and encourages them to go on further reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Does our religion really separate us? In the Book "Marika" the main character, is a twelve years old girl living in Hungary. She was given the name Schnurmacher Marika Etelka Olga. She had a typical family with one exception, they were Jewish. Marika had one sibling and his named was Andres. Andres was a tad older than his sister and knew much more on what was going on and why it was bad that they were Jews. Apa and Anya were Marika and Andres' parents; sadly things between them weren't working out anymore. Eventually Apa had found someone new, named Sari Neni who happens to live in the same building and was the mother of Tibor and Tamas. Tibor and Tamas were some of Marika's close friend, they were very talented on playing instruments. Another close friend of Marika's was Zsofi, who was also Jewish. The main external conflict in this book is about people discriminating Jewish people. In this book many people dislike Jews, for no absolute reason but only for they're religion. which seems pretty ridiculous, cause every person believes in different things which makes us different and unique. Later on in this book Marika and her family are forced into hiding with a lot of other Jewish families because the Nazis invaded Hungary. Another external conflict in the book is that Marika's father, is seeing another women. Also Marika is very bothered on the wall that was built in the middle of her apartment. Which split the apartment in two, on for Apa and the other half for Anya, Marika, and Andres. The parts that make up the rising action are when the wall was built between the apartment. Another rising action is when Marika is told to make false papers for her faily saying that they are Cathlolic. And the last rising action is when Marika and her family hear in the radio that Hitlor and the Nazis have invade other parts of the country. What I like about this book is that the situation was something that used to happen. Also I liked how it was written in first person, so I was able to know what the main character was thinking through out the whole book. Lastly I liked how this book had my attention after the first two chapters, the author is a good attention getter. Two things I dislike about the book is how the author ended the book, it seemed like a dull ending. Another was thing I disliked is how they treated Jew back then. They are regular people just like everyone else in the world, but just because they don't believe in what other people believe they are less important? I don't think so, all people are different that's what makes them unique and beautiful in their own way.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was very interesting. We had to read this book and do a project on it in my english class. Marika was a very determined young girl who was raised in a jewish family but under the catholic religion. this book tells her story and the hardships that she had to overcome to stay alive during the Holocaust. i recommend this story to younger readers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Marika was sooooo good! Why doesn't anybody write a review for this. My sister's name is Marika and that's why I chose to read it. Marika is a Jewish Hungarian girl who has been raised Catholic and has to deal with the war. The genre would probably be historical fiction. But I loved it, and READ IT!!!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Schnurmacher, Marika is six years old maturing in the European country of Hungary. She lives with her only sibling Andras, and her mother Anya slumped in depression. She grows up in conflicts, but finally realizes the greatest conflict of all she has not even noticed yet. Hitler was progressing into her beloved country of Hungary. Finally in February, 1944 the Nazi party takes over Hungary. She has to go into hiding and is on a journey to reunite herself with her family. I rate this book with 4 stars. I highly recommend it to readers of all ages.