My Palace of Leaves in Sarajevo

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
Lorbiecki (Just One Flick of a Finger) personalizes the experience of war in this epistolary novel. The pen pals, 10-year-old Nadja, a native of Sarajevo, and her American cousin Alex are cast as typical preteens who enjoy camping, music, skiing and movies; through their four-year correspondence, they express their hopes, fears and courage. The tone of Nadja's messages, at first optimistic and chatty-and delivered in broken English-changes abruptly when her city is invaded by soldiers ("I feel like everything squeezed in me. I do not know when all is to come out"). The shock she conveys lessens over the next few months as she writes about bombings, food shortages and the deaths of friends with a kind of weariness ("I am sorry I did not write to you. My heart was too sick. Tired of bad things. Gas line exploded. Dini was hurt. He has to have artificial legs"). Deeply affected by his cousin's plight, Alex tries to encourage Nadja by sending small gifts and the reassurance that his family is doing all they can to bring her to safety. Tauss's full-page color illustrations, inspired by war zone photographs, add an extra dimension to the drama. An informative introduction, conclusion and glossary of terms help clarify Nadja's situation.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Lorbiecki (Just One Flick of a Finger) personalizes the experience of war in this epistolary novel. The pen pals, 10-year-old Nadja, a native of Sarajevo, and her American cousin Alex are cast as typical preteens who enjoy camping, music, skiing and movies; through their four-year correspondence, they express their hopes, fears and courage. The tone of Nadja's messages, at first optimistic and chattyand delivered in broken Englishchanges abruptly when her city is invaded by soldiers ("I feel like everything squeezed in me. I do not know when all is to come out"). The shock she conveys lessens over the next few months as she writes about bombings, food shortages and the deaths of friends with a kind of weariness ("I am sorry I did not write to you. My heart was too sick. Tired of bad things. Gas line exploded. Dini was hurt. He has to have artificial legs"). Deeply affected by his cousin's plight, Alex tries to encourage Nadja by sending small gifts and the reassurance that his family is doing all they can to bring her to safety. Tauss's full-page color illustrations, inspired by war zone photographs, add an extra dimension to the drama. An informative introduction, conclusion and glossary of terms help clarify Nadja's situation. Ages 8-12. (May) FYI: A portion of the proceeds from the book will be donated to Bosnian relief efforts.
Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
For most young readers, the subject of war cannot really be understood. The news reports of casualties and the horrible carnage from a Civil War like that in the former Yugoslavia seems so distant and impersonal. It is only when you can get involved on a more personal level that the true horrors of war can begin to have an impact. As kids read the exchange of letters between Nadja in Sarajevo and her cousin Alex in Minnesota, the privations and emotional stress caused by fighting become real. We care about Nadja and her family and struggle with them to understand the senselessness of war. An afterword provides background and a glossary and pronunciation guide round out the text. Part of the proceeds will be donated to Bosnian relief.
School Library Journal
Gr 3-7Realistic contemporary fiction presented as a series of letters. Nadja Didovic is a 10-year-old Serbian/Muslim girl who writes to Alex Chardon in Minnesota for English practice. "Do you know you have cousin who is Nadja?" Their first letters, in the fall of 1991, compare notes on siblings, friends, sports, and intercultural novelties. Then her city is bombed by the Yugoslav Army in April 1992. Subsequent letters describe daily life in a war zone. Most of the correspondence is hers because mail from America seldom gets through. But the occasional letter from Alex shows his growing emotional involvement with the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and his mundane concerns help sustain Nadja through endless dark days in hiding. Alex's family hires a lawyer to obtain visas for the Didovics, and at the close of the book it seems likely that they will escape Sarajevo. At times, Nadja seems almost too heroic to be true; Alex comes across as a sincere boy who desperately wants to help and is often frustrated. The introduction and afterword summarize the geographical, historical, and political setting. The acknowledgments and dedications explain how the author pieced the book together from true accounts. Tauss skillfully uses oil with charcoal lines and texture of canvas showing to restate the dramatic emotions of the story. Most of the eight paintings are necessarily dark, but even the bleakest contain tiny, redeeming specks of brightness. Young readers will be moved by the plight of Bosnians and Alex's determination to help his cousin.Karen MacDonald, Teaticket Elementary School, MA
Kirkus Reviews
Nadja lives in Sarajevo and writes to her American cousin, Alex, to practice her English. She tells him about her secret hiding place in the top of a tree, and her first letters are happy and carefree. Her letters change dramatically, though, with the arrival of war in the city. She writes of bombs falling, of no water, no electricity, and no heat in winter. She worries that her father will be shot by snipers as he waits in long lines for supplies. Her mother, a doctor, is busier than ever and often away. Alex sends letters and care packages, never knowing if they'll reach Nadja, and the overlapping dates of the correspondence reveal how slowly mail travels.

Lorbiecki (Just One Flick of a Finger, p. 826, etc.) attempts to cover much of the conflict in relatively few pages, with references to Hitler and the Ustae, and to the complex religious tensions (Nadja's background is Muslim and Christian), an approach that makes the story, while moving, quite purposeful. Nadja's Slavic syntax is hard to follow at first—and the letter format limits deeper character development—but readers who persevere will grow accustomed to it, and even find it endearing.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803720343
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/1/1997
  • Pages: 48
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.37 (w) x 9.32 (h) x 0.52 (d)

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