The Bear Makersby Andrea Cheng
One family's story of survival in postwar Hungary, 1948. In Budapest after the war, when Kata’s family first returns from hiding, they are glad to be alive and hopeful that life will improve. But the secret police is questioning everyone about their loyalty to the Hungarian Workers Party, and conditions seem to be worsening. The eleven-year-old doesn’t
One family's story of survival in postwar Hungary, 1948. In Budapest after the war, when Kata’s family first returns from hiding, they are glad to be alive and hopeful that life will improve. But the secret police is questioning everyone about their loyalty to the Hungarian Workers Party, and conditions seem to be worsening. The eleven-year-old doesn’t understand why her brother Bela is acting so differently or why he hasn’t come home from his recent excursion. Her father used to own the factory, but now, as an employee, his wages continue to fall. She helps her mother sew the bears they will sell on the black market, but when Kata learns that Bela has escaped the country, she grows angry and sad. In time, she hopes that Bela will make it to America and will send for his family.
Eleven-year-old Kata is still too much a child to understand the political tensions swirling around her in post-World War II Hungary where her once-successful father has become depressed, her mother illegally sells stuffed animals, and her older brother flees to the West. Kata's clear, first-person voice never loses the child's point of view. Even as her older neighbor changes enough to rebel against her parents' demands that she become a Young Pioneer leader, Kata only sees that Eva has again become her friend. Thoughtful readers, however, will see between the lines and find enough detail to understand something of the political background and the family's precarious situation even if they have not previously studied the history of Soviet satellite countries. As she did in Marika (Boyds Mills, 1998), Cheng has based her story on her Hungarian family history; each chapter begins with a photograph of a piece of the instructions for the bears her grandmother made. This book reads like a memoir, and it is a thoroughly convincing recollection of a vanished world.-Kathleen Isaacs, Towson University, MD
Meet the Author
Andrea Cheng teaches English as a Second Language in Cincinnati. She is the daughter of Hungarian Jewish immigrants and grew up among extended family members, many of whom survived the Holocaust. Her family spoke mostly Hungarian at home.
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