Marika

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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 himself. Why can't they live together, like her friend Zsofi's family?
Then, when Marika is fifteen, the Germans occupy ...

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Marika

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Overview

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.

Andrea Cheng teaches English as a Second Language in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she lives with her husband and their three children. She is the daughter of Hungarian immigrants. Marika is loosely based on her mother's story.

Although she has been raised Catholic, Marika learns how dangerous it is to be of Jewish heritage and living in Hungary during World War II.

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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.
VOYA
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)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781886910782
  • Publisher: Boyds Mills Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/1998
  • Pages: 163
  • Age range: 10 - 13 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.79 (w) x 8.37 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrea Cheng teaches English as a Second Language and has written many books for children. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband and their three children.

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Table of Contents

Forgery 11
Maxi 15
Colette 22
Anya 32
School 39
Sore Throats 47
The Summer House 56
Kekes 65
Shoes 78
The Chosen People 84
Tibor and Tamas 93
Andras 99
Occupation 109
Yellow Stars 115
Pea Soup 128
Ilonka 134
Niece from Szendro 149
Dandelions 156
Epilogue 162
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 6 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(1)

4 Star

(4)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

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1 Star

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 4 of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2006

    A Holocaust story for younger readers

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2005

    Best book I have ever read in my life!

    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!!!!!!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2005

    Marika book review

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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