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Posted December 9, 2010
Twelve-year-old Miriam and her seven-year-old brother David are orphans. They live with their grandparents in Sosnowiec, Poland during the Great Depression in 1937. When the grandparents can no longer take care of them, they make the heartrending decision to place David in a Jewish orphanage and pull Miriam out of school to work in a butcher shop. But Miriam is determined to rescue her brother and bring him home.
This story is heartbreaking to read, especially knowing that it is based on true events that happened to the author's own cousins. As a mother, my heart ached for Miriam and David, so young and taken advantage of by cruel and greedy men. My sensitive daughter was sad because of the children's desperate situation and my son kept saying, "Mommy, those are bad men", in reference to the orphanage director and the factory owner who forced David to work in a factory. He, too, keenly felt the injustice.
The second half of the story is adventurous as Miriam teams up with Ben, another orphan, to rescue her brother. Miriam and David's close relationship is beautiful and it is touching to see what Miriam is willing to do to help her brother and her family. My daughter was very happy that it ended on a hopeful note.
This book gave me the opportunity to explain to my children how fortunate they are in comparison to many children in the world today who are in forced labour or even sold because their families cannot take care of them. However, I made sure that they understood that they not feel guilty for what they have because every child has the right to be loved and taken care of. I wanted them to understand that being aware of world events, both past and present, helps them to see what role they can play as good neighbours in direct relation to the commandment: "Love thy neighbour as yourself."
This book is a real eye-opener for children. Although sad, it shows the resilience of the human spirit and celebrates the courage and determination of filial love.
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