No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War

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Overview

The beloved Caldecott Honor artist now recounts a tale of vastly different kind ? her own achingly potent memoir of a childhood of flight, imprisonment, and uncommon bravery in Nazi-occupied Poland. Anita Lobel was barely five when the war began and sixteen by the time she came to America from Sweden, where she had been sent to recover at the end of the war. This haunting book, illustrated with the author's archival photographs, is the remarkable account of her life during those years. Poised, forthright, and ...
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Anita Lobel, known as an illustrator of children's books, describes her experience as a Polish Jew during World War II and for years in Sweden afterwards. She came to the United ... States as a teenager as a painter, fabric designer, and Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator of books for children. The jacket is bumped a bit at the spine top and at one spot on the top back. The inside board and end papers are decorated. Includes an epilogue and acknowledgments. Binding is reinforced. Read more Show Less

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Overview

The beloved Caldecott Honor artist now recounts a tale of vastly different kind — her own achingly potent memoir of a childhood of flight, imprisonment, and uncommon bravery in Nazi-occupied Poland. Anita Lobel was barely five when the war began and sixteen by the time she came to America from Sweden, where she had been sent to recover at the end of the war. This haunting book, illustrated with the author's archival photographs, is the remarkable account of her life during those years. Poised, forthright, and always ready to embrace life, Anita Lobel is the main character in the most personal story she will ever tell.The beloved Caldecott Honor artist now recounts a tale of vastly different kind — her own achingly potent memoir of a childhood of flight, imprisonment, and uncommon bravery in Nazi-occupied Poland. Anita Lobel was barely five when the war began and sixteen by the time she came to America from Sweden, where she had been sent to recover at the end of the war. This haunting book, illustrated with the author's archival photographs, is the remarkable account of her life during those years. Poised, forthright, and always ready to embrace life, Anita Lobel is the main character in the most personal story she will ever tell.

The author, known as an illustrator of children's books, describes her experiences as a Polish Jew during World War II and for years in Sweden afterwards.

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Editorial Reviews

Chicago Tribune
A compelling read, delicate yet powerful.
New York Times Book Review
Anita Lobel's disturbing memoir is neither sentimental nor exploitative...The memory is raw. The storytelling frames it. The message is that there is no meaning in this suffering.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Few admirers of Lobel's sunny picture book art On Market Street would guess at the terrors of Lobel's own childhood. Here, in beautifully measured prose, she offers a memoir that begins in 1939, when the author was five, as German soldiers march into her native Krakow; Lobel's adored father, the owner of a chocolate factory and a religious Jew, flees soon after, in the middle of the night "He had kissed me in the night, and I did not know it". Deportations begin, and before long the author and her younger brother who is dressed as a girl are sent to the country, in the care of their Niania nanny. Thus the two children embark on years of flight, on a turbulent course involving assumed identities, blackmailers, a dangerous stay in the Krakow ghetto, concealment in a convent, capture and concentration camps. In 1945 the children are liberated, in Ravensbruck, and brought to Sweden to recuperate from what turns out to be tuberculosis, and they are eventually reunited with both parents. Lobel brings to these dramatic experiences an artist's sensibility for the telling detail, a seemingly unvarnished memory and heartstopping candor. Focused on survival, the child narrator does not pity herself or express her terror: she observes everyone keenly and cannily sizes them up. This piercing and graceful account is rewarding for readers of all ages. It may prove especially valuable for children who have graduated from Lobel's picture books and who may therefore feel they "know" her; this memoir would help such readers build a personal connection to WWII and its tragic lessons. A 12-page inset of family photos is included. Ages 10-up. Sept.
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
decades of fanciful Lobel illustrations that I have admired and how she's spent a good part of her life pleasing fans with her pretty pictures. The raw power of her writing will please admirers in a different way. Her story is a tribute to her courage in the past and in the present.
VOYA - Patricia J. Morrow
Lobel is familiar to readers through her award-winning stories and illustrations for children. This is a memoir of the pictures of her past-never discussed before. Lobel and her younger brother survived day-to-day life in Nazi-occupied Poland then Montelupi prison, Plaszow, and Ravensbruck, and recovery in Sweden. She tells her story in a simple, matter-of-fact voice, beginning in 1939 when she was five and Poland was invaded. Given into the care of devout Catholic "Niania," the children pretend to be Catholic. They roam and survive as best they can with little help, but eventually are imprisoned. Moved to Plaszow they meet relatives and some of the guards give them quality shelter, food, toilets, and baths. Transported to Ravensbruck their better health deteriorates quickly. When the Allies arrive, Anita and her brother are sent to a sanatorium in Sweden, both having contracted tuberculosis. Swedish becomes Anita's daily language and she thrives on the special care. In 1947, Anita and her brother learn that their parents and Niania are alive. Anita has recovered and is sent to a shelter for Polish refugees where she has her first formal schooling, but is not yet ready to admit to being Jewish. Eventually, their parents arrive and the family moves to Stockholm until emigrating to the United States when Anita is sixteen. While many Holocaust survivors are telling their stories, this one suits the young adult audience. Anyone old enough to read about Anne Frank should read Lobel's memoir. There is no sense of fiction in her story and the emotions and realities of a young child ring true. The simplicity of her narration and the precise nature of her recollections fill readers with the awe of her survival-and amazement at her having kept the story inside for so long and now sharing it with us. This title was nominated for the 1998 National Book Award for Young Adults. Photos. VOYA Codes: 5Q 5P J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written, Every YA (who reads) was dying to read it yesterday, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
Children's Literature - Children's Literature
For decades, Anita Lobel has drawn bright, richly detailed children's book illustrations. In contrast, her first novel tells her story of surviving the Holocaust. When the Nazis invaded Poland, changes began in Lobel's life. Her Hasidic father fled after "kissing her in the night" and she didn't even know he had gone. While her mother managed to survive in Krakow with false identity papers and by selling her belongings on the black market, Anita and her brother were sent into the country with their strange Catholic nurse. With her brother was disguised as a girl, Lobel was suddenly turned into a practicing Catholic, who saw her mother infrequently, and they were plunged into a world of instability. Soon after came the insanity of the camps until, finally, she was reunited with her parents in Sweden. While reading, I couldn't help thinking of the pleasure Lobel has given with her fanciful illustrations and how the raw power of her writing will please fans in a different way. 2000 (orig. 1998), Greenwillow, Ages 11 up, $16.00 and $4.99. Reviewer: Susie Wilde
Children's Literature - Judy Silverman
Anita Lobel was five when the Nazis took over Poland. She and her brother, posing as a girl (the only way to hide his Jewishness), spent the war years in hiding-first in the country with their nurse, then in a convent. When they were caught, they were sent to a series of concentration camps. After the war, the Red Cross sent them to Sweden where Anita began to recover. In the U.S. since she was a teenager, Anita has spent her life making pictures and has never gone back. Nor has she ever looked back, until now. Her story is a fascinating look at a terrible time. None of us should ever discount a child's view, and none of us should ever forget what the children of war went through, and still go through. A highly recommended book.
KLIATT - Claire Rosser
This ALA Best Book and National Book Award finalist tells the true story of the childhood of Anita Lobel, the famous children's book artist. It is an amazing survival story. Anita was born in Poland in the 1930s in a Jewish family. When the Nazis marched into Poland in 1939, she was five years old and her little brother three. Their father left abruptly, leaving their mother, the little children and their devout Catholic nanny in Krakow. When the Nazis started rounding up Jews, the nanny took the little children with her into the countryside where she passed them off as her own children, with Anita's little brother disguised as a girl. The mother, surviving with false identity papers, gave them small things to sell to keep them fed. They kept alive in those early years of war, and when endangered, they sought refuge in a convent, still disguised. Even there the Jews weren't safe: Nazi soldiers came to arrest the Jewish children and haul them in cattle cars to the camps, and Anita and her brother were ripped apart from their nanny. In the camps, they were very ill, but fortunately, they were liberated before they died, and were taken to Sweden to recover after the war ended. The years Anita lived in Sweden, even the two years spent recovering from TB in a sanatorium, were happy ones; she could attend school for the first time in her life and learn about the wider world. It was in Sweden that she discovered her love of art, and her wonderful talent. Amazingly, she and her brother survived the war, thanks to their nanny's love and devotion to them; and eventually the whole family was reunited in Sweden before moving on to the US as refugees when Anita was 17 years old. There are no prettypictures here, it's true, but we do come away with wonder at the resilience of children and at Anita Lobel's great skill with words and her unsentimental understanding of a child's thoughts and feelings. Reviewer: Claire Rosser
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up-Lobel has written a haunting, honest, and ultimately life-affirming account of her childhood years in Nazi-occupied Poland. Born in Krakow to an affluent Jewish family, she and her younger brother were cared for by their nanny "Niania", a devout Catholic. Lobel was five when the Nazis arrived in Poland and her father left in the middle of the night. As the situation worsened, Niania took the children into hiding in the countryside while their mother remained in the city with fake identification papers. As the war continued, the siblings were hidden in various places, relying mostly on Niania to care for them, at great risk to herself. When Lobel and her brother were captured, Niania arranged to have the children delivered into the care of relatives inside the concentration camp at Plaszow. At the end of the war, Lobel, then 11, and her brother were sent to Sweden as refugees, where she thrived at a convalescent home while recovering from tuberculosis and was reunited with her parents. She ends the story with her family's emigration to the United States. The author's words are simple and straightforward, even when she describes the horror of life in the camp or the fear and loneliness of being separated from her family and nanny. This is a worthy addition to memoirs of war such as Esther Hautzig's The Endless Steppe Hall, 1968 and Yoko Kawashima Watkins's So Far from the Bamboo Grove Lothrop, 1986.-Carol Fazioli, The Brearley School, New York City, NY
Hazel Rochman
. . .[D]isturbing. . .neither sentimental nor exploitative. . . .The memory is raw. . . .The message is that there is no meaning in this suffering. -- The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
A haunting look back by Lobel, a Polish Jew who 'was born far, far away, on a bloody continent at a terrible time.' Lobel writes of her life as a young girl, who 'was barely five years old when the war began.' She and her three-year-old brother did not understand when her father disappeared in 1939 (to Russia, she later learned), but very soon they understood the words 'transported, deported, concentration camp and liquidation.' Taken from a Benedictine convent that sheltered Jewish children, Lobel and her brother (by then, ten and eight) were first in Montelupi Prison, then in Ravensbruck, where they were sick with lice, diarrhea, and tuberculosis. They were rescued and sent to Sweden to regain their health and eventually to be united with their parents. This is an inexpressibly sad book about a young girl who missed her childhood, yet survived to say that her life 'has been good. I want more.'
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688159351
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/28/1998
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 193
  • Age range: 10 years
  • Lexile: 750L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.74 (w) x 9.38 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Anita Lobel's name is synonymous with the best in children's literature. She is the creator of such classics as Alison's Zinnia and Away from Home, and she received a Caldecott Honor for her illustrations in On Market Street. She is the creator of two books about her cat, Nini, One Lighthouse, One Moon (a New York Times Best Illustrated Book), and Nini Here and There. Her childhood memoir, No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War, was a finalist for the National Book Award. Anita Lobel lives in New York City.

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Read an Excerpt

No Pretty Pictures
A Child of War

Chapter One

From our balcony on a September day a long time ago, I watched the Germans march into the city where we lived. They stepped in unison, in shiny boots, with sunlight glinting on helmets and bouncing off bayonets. They sang a marching song. I did not understand the words that echoed between the buildings. Pushing my head through the bars of our crowded balcony to see the soldiers better, I held on tightly to my niania's (nanny's) hand. "Niemcy, Niemcy" ("Germans, Germans"), she muttered and sighed. My mother and father were there, and many other people. "No! No! They are French!" I heard people say. "Surely they must be French." It was a warm, and beautiful day. There was music and promise in the air.

The back of the large apartment building where we lived faced a square courtyard. Here balconies were long walkways that extended the whole length of the building. We sometimes saw our neighbor, a Hasid, in his long black coat and round saucerlike hat edged in fur, rushing by our back windows on his way to the elevator. He turned comers, his beard flying in the wind. "Jews!" I would hear Niania mutter.

My father was the owner of a chocolate factory. He was not a Hasid. But every morning he wrapped his head in thin black leather straps that ended in a small square box that rested on his forehead. The ends of the straps were tied around his wrists. He put a white shawl with black stripes around his shoulders and faced a window that led to the back balcony.. He mumbled and rocked back and forth. Under the leather straps on his head he wore a tight hairnet clasped on the side with a buckle.After he finished his mumblings, he unwrapped the straps, kissed them, and wound them back into the box he had taken off his head. He went to another room and came out elegantly dressed in a fine gray suit with a white shirt, a tie, and a boutonniere in his lapel. His hair was beautifully slicked down. He wore shiny black shoes and often spats. He smelled nice when he kissed me good-bye.

Then, one morning, he was gone and did not come back. He had kissed me in the night, and I did not know it. I looked for his shoes. I could not find his smell, and I cried.

One afternoon that October I was standing by the window that looked out on the courtyard. Something happened. I don't know how it happened. I did not see the beginning of it. Niania cried: "Don't look! Don't look!" She tried to pull me away from the window. "Come away from there!" Six floors below an open window facing our part of the building, several people were surrounding something on the ground. I could see a dark liquid slowly appear on the cement courtyard. Without really knowing, I knew what all this was.

Whenever I ran and fell, banging my head, a black smell curled around in my head. No, even before, before the pain really began. Before I had had time to burst into my childish wail, an oily pungency flushed the inside of my head and spread through my mouth and my nostrils.

Once, before the German soldiers had even come, I had been walking with Niania in the middle of the city, near a place called the Rondel. Into this remaining part of a medieval tower surrounded by a waterless moat, two motorcyclists had crashed. The railing had been bent and broken in several places. I saw no bodies. But before Niania hurried me away, I had seen the dark, dark red pools of liquid in the moat. There had been the noise that sirens and policemen and droszki (horse-drawn carriages) and horses made. And in my head there had been the smell of it all.

The shape on the ground of our courtyard had been covered. The edges of the blanket fanned out neatly. The puddle of blackish red liquid that slowly seeped out from under the blanketed mound was growing larger. A high-heeled shoe had fallen off one foot that could just barely be seen under the covering. And that smell was in my head again.

A blue late-afternoon sky cradled the roofs of my Eastern European city when Niania closed the drapes.

A little later I sneaked back to the window. It was dark now. I could no longer see a stain. There was no blanket on the ground. The shoe was gone. The courtyard was empty. There was nothing.

No Pretty Pictures
A Child of War
. Copyright © by Anita Lobel. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 22 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 22 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2014

    The memoir No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War by Anita Lobel is

    The memoir No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War by Anita Lobel is a very touching story of Anita and her family’s journey through World War II. The book was very descriptive and I felt during some of the moments I was able to understand exactly what Lobel was explaining. Another great characteristic in this book was that Anita translated some of the words she used to German or Polish. Reading this book definitely helps you to understand what World War II was like through a ten year old’s eyes.  Anita’s struggle through the war is a story that should be read. It is a very interesting story which many people will enjoy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2014

    I found this book confusing at times, but awesome. Sometimes the

    I found this book confusing at times, but awesome. Sometimes the word pattern and language was difficult to follow.
    However, I enjoyed reading how Anita faced the challenges thrown at her especially the concentration camp when she didn't have fear even thought they were most likely going to kill her and her brother. I admire a five year old for not only surviving the holocaust, but writing about it to. Even when she had tuberculosis she wasn't scared or frightened she just wanted to play outside. Anita lobel is amazing because after the war she continued to write. she didn't just live on, she strived after the holocaust. I strongly encourage people to read this book

    sl

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2013

    Imagine being taken from your home by Nazis when you are only e


    Imagine being taken from your home by Nazis when you are only eight years old and you and your younger brother are trying to survive
     to see your family again. In the autobiography, No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War, by Anita Lobel, you will learn about her life in that
     situation. She writes her long, hard, and painful story about her experience in a concentration camp. I enjoyed reading this book
    because it taught me a lot about what it was like to be a prisoner in a camp. Teenage boys and girls would like this book because it is
     very interesting and the author does a great job of telling her story. 

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 28, 2011

    Great book

    I really really enjoyed this book. I have always been interested in WWII stories just because of reading Ann Frank as a child. This story is an eye opening glimpse into how people lived and the horrific things they had to go through. I couldnt imagine living through things like that and I am so thankful to be in this day and time rather then during this stories time. Lobel has a beautiful way of informing while still keeping the audience anticipating what will happen next. I really like how the story was written- it flows really well. The beginning is a little slow but once you get reading its intense and kept me reading for hours.

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  • Posted January 14, 2011

    Must read!

    I fell in Love with this book! I picked it up by chance at my high school library, not knowing what it was about. I'm normally not the type of person who just reads for a good time, but I was walking by and it caught my attention. Every page of this book kept me interested and I was definitely rooting for that little girl and her brother the whole time. I think it should be required reading for students. I'm very glad that I took the time to read this Book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2008

    this book is SUPER FABULOSO!

    i like this book because, it's great and enjoyable. it talks about a girl who could not be beautiful and could not make a smile at all. i wasn't going to like doing what Lobel was doing there in the story

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2007

    A Must Read For Anyone Interested in The Holocaust.

    Anita Lobel has a wonderful story to tell, one filled with drama, intrigue and utlimate triumph of spirit. I loved this book and would highly recommend it. She has had a life turned upside down by world war II and is a survivor with a joy for living that oozes from the pages of this book. I admire her both as an indivual and as a writer/artist. What a wonderful book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2007

    A reviewer

    I cant imagine what it was like living through Nazis and concentration camps. I wouldnt know what to do if i was in her past sitchaution (i know i cant spell!) She was really brave.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2006

    i liked it...

    i enjoyed the book, although it seemed quite slowmoving and childish. although the character was a child she had very adult thoughrs and reactions. she seemed to grow up too quickly, i felt i was missing something. on the other hand the story was compelling and kept me interested.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2005

    The Best AutoBiography I Have Ever Read!

    I read this book around 3 times now and I feel it is the most decriptive and powerful book I have ever read. I have read many Autobiographies and most were dull and boring, But I must say that this one was truely astonishing! It made me feel for the characters. It was very sad and suspencful in most parts that's what made it so outstanding! ^_^

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2004

    disappointing

    i started reading it and i don't realy remember the first half of the book(it was soooo boring i was almost sleeping). but the second half i was awake but not realy intrestsd. you would only like it if you like boring slow reads

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2002

    Anita Lobel's No Pretty Pictures

    This amazingly heart wrenching autobiography leaves you on the edge of your seat! I recomend this book for all ages. T

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2002

    The best book!!

    I think that no pretty pictures really made me realize what children where going through during the holocaust and really made me want to get up and do something!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2002

    No Pretty Pictures

    I was really touched when Anita Lobel wrote that she had to hide her matzah in a carriage under her dolls. Her every day routines became in danger and therefore what ever she did had to be in secret.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2001

    No Pretty Pictures

    This is one of my favorite books. I like how the author made it so easy to picture in your head what was going on in the story. This book made me understand the pain that people suffered during the holocast. The book always made want to read on and never put it dow. I enjoyed this book alot. The author should write more stories because she did a great job w/this book. I recommend this book to e

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2002

    What an AWESOME book!!!

    I really liked this book... I usually don't read that often, but this book would make kids that don't read that often want to read.(like me) The book was pretty much about two jewish kids that are trying to stay away from the Nazis and there nanny is helping them hide. One of the two kids is a girl and the other is a boy and they are brother and sister. They eventually get caught by the Nazis and the get taken to a concentration camp. Were they are treated very badly and there is a really bad stench. At the end of the book they get resucued and taken to a sanitorium because they found out the had tuberculosis. They get better and reunited with there nanny, mother, and father.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2001

    Best Ever

    This was a very good book..it really makes ya think..i'm only 13 and i loved it..

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2001

    I love it

    I read this book in my 8th grade english class and I am very glad I did because I was able to see how much it was to vaule life during the holocaust. This is my favorite book of all time , and I hope that everyone can get a chance to read it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2000

    Incredible Book...

    No Pretty Pictures is an amazing book. The author really lets people know what it was like to live during ww2, and all the struggles that came along with it. The book is incredible and wonderfull--it is a highly reccomended book from my point of view.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2000

    Looking for a Savior

    'One night I dreamed that I was taking a hot bath in a great big tub. Feeling warm and relaxed, I woke up with streams of diarrhea running out of me and all over our bunk'. This is an example of the graphic nature written by Anita Lobel, No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War. These details talk about the horror living during the Nazi invasion of Poland that make this book one that I would recommend to everyone from ages fifteen and up to read. There is a section of pictures of Lobel in this book where you find some of the people and characters in the book that are important to the author. The picture on the front cover is Lobel and her brother after they disembarked from the ferry that carried them to the Baltic Sea to Sweden. Although, some parts, I found confusing. I think it began when she arrived in Sweden. Lobel goes from the tragedy of being in a camp to talking about how she's fascinated about her art. Yes, this book is all about Lobel and how she survived. But why is writing about her fascination with art so important? Is this book supposed to talk about the horrors in camp or how she survived? Other than that confusion, I think the rest is written with such great pain, it just makes you realize what horrors the author and her family went through. I think she sends a great message in her novel. She proves to us readers that it is hard to struggle in life and mature at the same time during the Nazi invasion. You may think reading about Anne Frank is enough, but you would be wrong. Anne Frank and Anita Lobel have some similarities. First, neither of them use formal language. Their books are very easy to read and understand. Both of them also have to deal with deaths of loved ones, try to keep their memories in the past, and move on with their lives. There are also some differences. When Anne Frank got into her teens, she had to deal with her parents. On the other hand, Anita Lobel, has to mature faster, and is separated from her parents, leaving her with her brother. Anne Frank writes about her daily life and Lobel uses suspense throughout her novel. I am not saying Anne Frank is boring, even though her writing is personal and descriptive when you read her diary, but Anita Lobel writes like a biographer. She summarizes the parts of her life that are less significant to her. She's not very descriptive only on some areas in this book. Although both authors may have similarities and some differences, I think both inspire you to keep on going to enjoy life the fullest. It is really hard to write about something so traumatic in your life. Imagine yourself, all alone with nobody else. Who would you look up to? It's hard to keep on going on in life when you're all alone in this world. But this book, has a happy ending at least. Not all Jewish survivors lived to tell their story. Luckily, Lobel had the chance to write about surviving in a world of hate.

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