Sacred Shadows

Sacred Shadows

by Maxine Rose Schur
     
 

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After the death of her father in World War I, Lena finds herself a German and a Jew in an unforgiving country. Her mother says conditions will improve but Lena suspects this belief is not only wrong...it's dangerous.

"Exquisitely Rendered"-The Horn Book

"A moving story, exquisitely told... a novel with the ring of authenticity as well as artistry."-The Contra

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Overview

After the death of her father in World War I, Lena finds herself a German and a Jew in an unforgiving country. Her mother says conditions will improve but Lena suspects this belief is not only wrong...it's dangerous.

"Exquisitely Rendered"-The Horn Book

"A moving story, exquisitely told... a novel with the ring of authenticity as well as artistry."-The Contra Costa Times

"The magic of this book lies in the remarkable writing style of the author whose depiction of time and place is so vivid that you walk the streets and recognize the people. A moving, beautifully written account of a little-known time".-Children's Literature
Literature

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As in The Circlemaker and Day of Delight, Schur turns to a less-visited chapter in Jewish history for the setting of this intermittently interesting novel. Lena Katz grows up in Poland between the two World Wars. As German citizens, she and her war-widow mother are outsiders; as Jews, they feel the sting of ever-increasing Polish anti-Semitism. Lena dreams of going to Berlin to study fashion design, and, in fact, her aunt and her brother both encourage her mother to join them in Germany ("The Poles resent successful Jews," says Lena's brother in 1927, "but in Germany we're rewarded"). This valuable historical perspective, however, is dampened by stiff characterizations and melodramatic plotting. The supporting cast adheres to familiar types, e.g., the poor but artistic outcast and the rich, spoiled beauty (the outcast kills herself after the beauty unjustly accuses her of stealing a sapphire ring). The story line devolves almost into operetta when Lena falls in love with a Zionist ("When I lay my head in love against his chest, the sound I heard was a beating of wings"), breaks up when she can't bring herself to leave with him for Palestine and then, at the very last minute, changes her mind and races to the train station to find him. An afterword outlines the fate of those Jews who did not share Lena's happy ending. Ages 11-14. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
Lena Katz awakens one morning to discover that her German town is now part of Poland, 1918. A German Jew living in a country that hates both Germans and Jews must learn to cope with danger and prejudice. Since her father was killed in the war, Lena and her mother use their skills to make a living and survive. The magic of this book lies in the remarkable writing style of the author whose depiction of time and place is so vivid that you walk the streets and recognize the people. This is the coming-of-age story of Lena who, in spite of living during such volatile times in Europe, has the same feelings of joy, hope and insecurity common to all young women. Many of the incidents are based on experiences of the author's family.
VOYA - Nancy Zachary
This complex, emotional story unfolds in the garrison of Ledniezno in the province of Poznan, Germany. Schur's narrative provides a wonderful introduction for the YA reader to the aftermath of World War I and the escalating political conditions preceding World War II in Europe. Young Lena's father meets a hero's death fighting for Germany in 1917, and the Katz family is awarded an Iron Cross medal by the government. When the war ends, their community finds itself under Polish rule when Germany is forced to return lands to Poland. Growing anti-Semitism and confusion about political allegiances are contrasted with soldiers marching in the streets, Mrs. Katz's prosperous shoe business, and the coming-of-age concerns of Lena's school-age friends. The author employs deep symbolism and weaves values and morals easily into the characters' actions. Lena's German nationalism is highlighted by her love for the writings of Goethe, and on a spirited adventurous outing she quotes, "Are not even the rocks crowned with sacred shadows?" She claims that God's goodness touches everything. It is at this point in the plot that the foreshadowing of violence and the reader's understanding of Lena's youthful optimism is strongest. When she meets her love in the Zionist character of Janusz, hearts are lifted and the future brightens. Shelve this gem alongside Schur's The Circlemaker (Dial, 1994) for historical fiction fans and romance readers alike. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Broad general YA appeal, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
Children's Literature - Judy Silverman
Lena Katz's father is killed fighting for Germany in World War One. That is only the first blow in a life that will be turned upside down over and over again in the years between the two world wars. Does her city belong to Germany or Poland? Which language does she have to use? Where does her loyalty belong, when her neighbors call her "dirty Jew," and no one cares that her father was a hero? When Lena meets Janusz, she learns of the other choices facing her(and of a minor politician called Hitler. Will Lena take charge of her own life, and turn it upside down on her own? Written in the form of a diary, and based on the author's family history, this is a moving, beautifully written account of a little-known time. Highly recommended for ages 11 to adult.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9--Lena Katz is a Jewish girl growing up in Germany in the period between the two world wars. After Poland reclaims the German province in which her family lives, anti-Semitic activity becomes more blatant. Lena's mother believes that things will get better and resists all attempts by her extended family to get her to move to Germany. Many of Lena's Jewish friends, including romantic interest Janusz, are attracted to the new Zionist movement, and Lena is caught in the middle of a difficult dilemma: remain with her war-widowed mother or flee to Palestine. The novel's suspenseful ending is rendered more powerful by the knowledge that most readers will bring to it: many Jews who did not leave Europe did not survive World War II. The book is most successful at making real the ways in which Lena's life is affected by racial hatred. For example, her mother's previously successful shoe store is unable to compete with stores owned by non-Jews after suppliers will no longer provide her with shoes and customers are too intimidated to shop there. Unfortunately, parts of the plot are melodramatic, and some of the characters are stiff, unbelievable, and all-too-familiar. Nevertheless, libraries may want to purchase this for its unique historical perspective. An afterword supplies factual details about the destruction Hitler wrought in Europe.--Ellen Fader, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR
Kirkus Reviews
Schur (When I Left My Village, 1996, etc.) draws on family history for this ominous tale of German and Polish Jews facing rising tides of anti-Semitism in the years before Hitler's rise. In the wake of her father's death at Verdun, young Lena Katz and her mother run a successful shoe store in Ledniezno, once a town in Germany, now part of a reconstituted Poland. Being both German and Jewish, they and their friends come under increasing attacks as the years go by—a time in which Heine's poems become attributed to "anonymous" in new editions of Lena's textbooks, newspaper and government antagonism toward Jewish businesses becomes more open, and local support for the Nazis grows. Lena's mother refuses to leave Poland, promising better times ahead and angrily rejecting the Zionism of Lena's heartthrob, Janusz. Spanning the years between 1917 to 1932, the plot is episodic and slow to develop; Lena's innocence in the face of all she sees and hears is artificially prolonged, while the ending, in which Lena at first refuses and then decides to accompany Janusz to Palestine, passes without even a parting scene with her mother. A brief afterword encapsulates the Holocaust and the foundation of Israel. The novel offers readers a moving glimpse of how public opinion set the stage for genocide, although that purpose occasionally engulfs the storyline and characters.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780595367931
Publisher:
iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date:
12/05/2005
Pages:
228
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.52(d)
Age Range:
11 - 14 Years

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