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Shadow Children

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"Maybe for us it's over. But not for the children. For them it will never be over."

One summer after the Second World War, Etienne visits his beloved grand-father near the French town of Mont Brulant. A two-month vacation stretches before Etienne — with hay to be turned, pears to be harvested, and old books to help repair. Best of all are the fields and woods around Mont Brulant, waiting to be explored on the back of Grand-père's horse.

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Tauss, Herbert 1994 Hard cover Reprint. New in new dust jacket. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 96 p. Contains: Illustrations. Audience: Children/juvenile. New condition in a ... new condition jacket. Not a remainder or library book. Giftable. Read more Show Less

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"Maybe for us it's over. But not for the children. For them it will never be over."

One summer after the Second World War, Etienne visits his beloved grand-father near the French town of Mont Brulant. A two-month vacation stretches before Etienne — with hay to be turned, pears to be harvested, and old books to help repair. Best of all are the fields and woods around Mont Brulant, waiting to be explored on the back of Grand-père's horse.

But this year Mont Brulant isn't the same as Etienne remembers it. Why don't any young people live in the town now? he wonders. And why doesn't anyone else notice the refugee children begging along the road?

Then one day Etienne discovers children living in the woods — children named Isaac and Sarah, and many others. Grand-père says he's imagining things. But why is Grand-père so worried about the markings that suddenly appear on Etienne's forearm?

As Etienne unravels the truth of what happened to the children of Mont Brulant, he and Grand-père must together confront an unspeakable tragedy. Steven Schnur's remarable tale of guilt and rememberance will stay with readers long after the last page is turned.

While spending the summer on his grandfather's farm in the French countryside, eleven-year-old Etienne discovers a secret dating back to World War II and encounters the ghosts of Jewish children who suffered a dreadful fate under the Nazis.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The Holocaust becomes the occasion for a ghost story in this troubling novel. Etienne, the 11-year-old narrator, is spending a summer with Grand-pre in rural France. He is puzzled when Grand-pre does not see the wraithlike children begging in the road. After a few more such sightings, Etienne discovers various children's trinkets in the woods, including a pen that mysteriously tattoos his arm with concentration-camp numbers. At last Etienne learns that during WWII, about 1000 Jewish children sought refuge in those woods-until the Germans forced the villagers to deliver them to certain death. Schnur (Hannah and Cyclops) underplays the historical background, with the result that the episode of the 1000 refugee children seems as unreal as the supernatural visitations. Ages 8-up. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Judy Silverman
In The Shadow Children, ghosts appear to be haunting a village to remind the residents of something they'd much rather forget. Just after World War II, Etienne visits his grandfather in the French countryside. Etienne remembers that children and young people had lived in the nearby town. He sees a group of children whom he recognizes as refugees, and although Grand-Pere's old horse seems to recognize them, Grand-Pere himself doesn't even see them. Etienne finds things in the woods that must belong to these children, but Grand-Pere denies that there were ever children hiding in the woods. Finally Grand-Pere is forced to face his memories, and to realize that he can't keep Etienne from the realities of the world. "The dead would not be forgotten...." A moving tribute for kids who already know the basics about the Holocaust and who won't be disturbed by the ghostly time-warp aspect. It does not serve as an introduction to the subject.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Etienne, 11, looks forward to his summer at Grand-pre's farm near Mont Brulant. This year, though, things are different, for he sees ragged refugee children no one else notices and discovers artifacts in the woods where railroad tracks used to run. He meets Isaac, the children's teacher, and hears the whistle of a nonexistent train. Slowly, Etienne realizes he is reliving events that occurred years before, during World War II, when the Jewish children in the town were turned over to the Nazis. Schnur's novel is poignant and haunting. Etienne's direct, first-person narrative draws readers into his world, one of pleasure and puzzlement, action and reflection. The fantasy elements are smoothly integrated into the story, and add a unique slant to a frequently covered topic. A thought-provoking addition to the World War II literature.-Ann W. Moore, Schenectady County Public Library, NY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688132811
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/28/1994
  • Pages: 96
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 850L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Meet the Author

In His Own Words...

"The summer I turned eight my family moved from the suburban town I had lived in all my life to a neighboring community six miles away. For my parents, who had spent their childhood fleeing Hitler, the change meant little more than an additional bedroom or two for their growing family of four sons. But for me, the sudden loss of neighborhood and friends seemed an upheaval as great as any they had endured during the 1930s. In an instant I became an outsider, a stranger, the new kid on the block. The shock awakened me from the cozy sleep of infancy and thrust me overnight into the great world of newspapers and radios and books, a world full of mystery and menace and wonder.

"It was a fascinating and fearsome time to wake up: John Kennedy, was about to be elected president, the threat of nuclear war hung in the air, and the first cautious explorations of outer space coincided with the first tentative revelations of the horrors of the Holocaust.

"With the Cold War providing the persistent background hum of impending annihilation, a hum that filled the ears of every child of the fifties, I began to learn the I Holocaust's terrible lessons of mail's limitless capacity for evil. The more I read about those awful years, the more I realized that events played out on the world stage had enormous impact on my own life. Though my immediate family had escaped Unscathed from the flames if Europe, many distant relatives had not. And had it not been for the war, I would have grown up not as an American in a suburb of New York City but, like my parents, as a German citizen of Berlin or Dresden.

"There was one other central constellation in the firmament of my youth: love. I was blessed to fall in love early in life and remain that way. Within days of meeting my future wife I knew we would one day marry. Eight years later, after high school, college, and postgraduate studies, we did. A long period of infertility followed, but the., with the swiftness of a miracle, three children were born: a daughter and boy/girl twins. Ever since I have thought of myself as a father first; everything else has become secondary.

"Writing for me has always been an expression of gratitude, an outgrowth of the impulse to give thanks for love received, for children born, for the miraculous existence of the imagination. When I write for adults I often do so in a state of wonder, transfixed by blessings. When I write for children I try to recapture the eight-year-old boy I once was, a boy filled with a passionate interest in the unfolding world around him. And finally I write in the hope of leaving behind a legacy of thought and feeling that my children might one day mine, if not for answers at least for solace, in the recognition that we traveled the same road of doubt and discovery."

Herbert Tauss is an internationally known artist whose work has been awarded gold, silver, and bronze medals from the Society of Illustrators. He has illustrated limited-edition classics published by the Franklin Library. An instructor at the Fashion Institute of Technology and at Syracuse University's master's program, Mr. Tauss lives in Garrison, New York.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

My grandfather lived all his life on a small farm in the high country near the village of Mont Brulant. I spent my summers there as a boy, learning to ride and swim and cast for trout in the icy mountain streams, and to plow a straight furrow through the dark, volcanic soil. It was the place I loved most in all the world, a place full of unfamiliar freedoms and unexpected discoveries. In my earliest years, just after the Second World War, my parents accompanied me on the long trip out to the farm and left me there in the care of my grandparents, retrieving me again just before school resumed in the fall. But the year I turned eleven they let me make the journey alone. My grandmother had died that winter and Mama worried that Grandfather might be lonely. So, the first day of vacation I boarded the train carrying a heavy suitcase, a return ticket, and instructions to "take special care of Grand-père."

I was not the only one traveling alone that day. The train was crowded with children put on at one end by parents and taken off at the other by grandparents, or aunts and uncles. The conductor, a heavy, red-faced man with a thick black mustache and a large pocket watch, helped us find seats and made sure we got off at our stops. During the long hours in between we ate the hard-boiled eggs and sausages our mothers had packed, our feet tapping to the rhythmic clatter of the rails, our faces pressed to the windows, watching the scenery change from tall buildings and crowded city streets to open fields and endless green forests. As it did I felt my chest expand, imagining I was no longer just a boy on vacation but ayoung man leaving home to make my way in the world. I didn't know then that my summer alone with Grand-père would, in fact, mark the end of my childhood.

He was waiting for me as the train pulled into the tiny depot at Mont Brulant, scattering chickens and sleeping dogs. I spotted him sitting on the high wooden seat of his wagon, squinting into the afternoon sun, the smoke from his pipe curling around his white head. "Grand-père!" I shouted, sliding open the compartment window and waving. He smiled, knocked the pipe against his shoe, and began to climb down. His great white mare, Reveuse, the dreamer, stood nearly motionless in the heat, her long, uncombed tail switching listlessly at flies. There was no larger horse in all the world, it seemed to me, and none slower. I was so happy to see them both that I laughed.

As Grand-père approached the train the conductor pulled my suitcase from the rack above the seat and handed it down through the window, then tossed a large canvas sack after it, shouting, "You're a popular man this week, Monsieur Hoirie." I bounded down the steps and into Grand-père's arms. He took my head in his rough hands and kissed my cheeks, his gray eyes shining. Then to the conductor he called proudly, "My grandson," placing his hand on my head.

"Fine boy," the conductor said, scanning the platform for late arrivals. "He'll make a good farmer, just like his grandfather?"

"For the summer, at least," Grand-père replied.

The conductor smiled, blew his whistle, checked the platform one last time, then waved the engineer on. A moment later the great black train jerked forward, pulling slowly away from the station.

"You've grown," Grand-père said, taking me by the shoulders. The sweet aroma of his pipe, of molasses, curing hay, and burning leaves -- the scent of the farm itself -- filled the air. "Soon you'll be too big to spend summers with your cranky old grandfather, won't you? But not just yet."

"Not ever." I smiled, blinking in the bright blue light that made Mont Brulant shimmer like no other place I knew.

He clapped me on both shoulders, then limped back to the wagon carrying the heavy sack in one hand and my suitcase in the other. Reveuse neighed as I approached, dropping her head to be stroked. "She doesn't forget," Grand-père said, handing me two large sugar cubes. Reveuse ate them from my open palm, tickling my hand with her rough, wet lips.

"Did they take good care of you on the train?" he asked. I nodded, stroking Reveuse, her smooth white coat rippling loosely beneath my fingers. "You must be hungry after such a long ride," he added, lifting my suitcase and the dirty gray sack into the wagon.

"Starving," I replied. He rumpled my hair and laughed. "When isn't an eleven-year-old boy hungry? Come, we've got a long way to go." With a boost from his powerful arms, I leapt up to the high seat and looked out over the village square.

Beneath the linden trees a dozen old men sat watching a game of boule, shouting encouragement as the heavy metal balls rolled through the dust and clanged against each other. Monsieur Jaboter, the butcher, stood cleaving meat in the window of his shop. The aroma of sheep and fresh-baked bread drifted across the cobblestone square, followed closely by the pungent smell of cheese. It was all so familiar, and yet somehow different. Something had changed. The town looked smaller than I remembered, emptier. What had become of the grand sparkling fountain and the large red-tiled houses facing the depot? In their place stood a handful of small shops and a trickling spout used to water the horses. Even the old men seemed smaller. Grand-père too.

For just a moment I felt a pang of disappointment, but then Grand-père climbed up beside me, clicked his tongue, and cooed, "Home, my lady," and slowly Reveuse came to life, yanking the heavy, groaning wagon forward, clopping loudly across the cobblestones, that hollow, happy sound restoring my delight in the place. A few of the old men nodded as we passed. Monsieur Jaboter leaned out his door and called, "How long will you have the boy?"

The Shadow Children. Copyright © by Steven Schnur. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2004

    Great teaching tool!

    I read this book out of personal interest, then found myself using it as part of a unit on the Holocaust for 6th graders. It helps to give a different perspective on the Holocaust, providing insight into the choices forced upon the non-Jewish population under Hitler's regime. It is not always easy to do the right thing, and this book shows the viciousness of the Nazi's in persuing the total extermination of the Jews.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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