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Upon the Head of the Goat: A Childhood in Hungary, 1939-1944

Upon the Head of the Goat: A Childhood in Hungary, 1939-1944

4.2 6
by Aranka Siegal

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A Newbery Honor Book


A Newbery Honor Book

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San Val, Incorporated
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Meet the Author

Aranka Siegal’s Holocaust novels are based on her own experiences as a child. She lives in Miami, Florida.

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Upon the Head of the Goat: A Childhood in Hungary, 1939-1944 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A young Jewish girl -- nine when we first meet her and nearly fourteen when the book ends -- experiences the beginning of World War II with her parents in Hungary (and her grandmother in the Ukraine). Eventually, she, her family, and all the Jews of their small town, are forced to leave their homes and await a train that will take them to Auschwitz. This is a terribly sad coming-of-age story that is accessible to children older than ten. It doesn't explain the Holocaust, but it goes further than most books in allowing readers to 'experience' the fear, confusion, and especially the courage felt and displayed by the characters. Indeed, the author, who based the story of her own experiences, does an outstanding job drawing all the characters, including a number of the non-Jewish townspeople and one particular non-Jewish Hungarian soldier. It is especially interesting to learn so much about small-town life in the Hungarian-Ukrainian border region. It is sad, but not at all morose. It is inspirational -- because so many characters, young and old, display courage and fortitude in the face of increasing misfortune. And it is filled with compassion -- you almost feel sorry for the non-Jews who turn their backs on their Jewish neighbors. In one scene, the young narrator, who can only take a few items with her into the ghetto, gives her record player and records to her non-Jewish friend, to hold for her until she returns, even though they have not spoken to each other since the Jewish children were excluded from the town's schools. You can feel the hope of the narrator that someday she might return, get back her records, and they can play together again. And you can feel the shame the non-Jewish friend feels -- wanting to still be friends, but feeling constrained by the societal pressure to ostracize the Jews. At one point the author recalls her Grandmother's words that Jews and non-Jews 'are all the children of God.' But she is looking at a German guard preparing to force them on to the train to Auschwitz. And she wonders if this cold, grey man -- who is ignoring all the suffering around him -- is also a child of God. Clearly, the author does not draw any of the Nazi characters compassionately. On the other hand, their actions and their treatment of others evoke our pity, more than our hatred -- for they, the Nazis, had clearly forgotten that all people are 'the children of God.' This book is filled with the 'humanity' and 'humankindness' exhibited by the Jews who are subjected to oppression, hatred and derision, but who respond by helping each other and those who are less fortunate. The author expresses very little hatred towards the oppressor. But I was left with a terrible sadness, knowing that the German and Hungarian oppressors chose to act inhumanely -- they did it to themselves -- they denied their 'humanity.' There is no way that I could forgive such horrible people, but this book is the first book that made me pity them. I look forward to reading the sequel: 'Grace in the Wilderness.'
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A fantastic read. Would definitely read again.
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