Upon the Head of the Goat: A Childhood in Hungary 1939-1944by Aranka Siegal
Upon the Head of the Goat is the winner of the 1982 Boston Globe - Horn Book Award for Nonfiction and a 1982 Newbery Honor Book.
“At the outbreak of World War II, 9-year-old Piri is visiting her grandmother in the Ukrainian countryside and is unable to return to her family in the Hungarian town of Beregszász. Aranka Siegal, the Piri of the narrative, finally comes home the following year but finds her life forever changed.” Starred, School Library Journal
“This is a book that should be read by all those interested in the Holocaust and what it did to young and old.” Isaac Bashevis Singer
“A simple and beautiful account of the life of a Jewish family as, step by step, war and anti-Semitism creep closer to the Hungarian town in which they live, finally engulfing them.” The New Yorker
- Farrar, Straus and Giroux
- Publication date:
- Sold by:
- NOOK Book
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- File size:
- 415 KB
- Age Range:
- 10 - 14 Years
Meet the Author
Aranka Siegal's Holocaust novels are based on her own experiences as a child. She lives in Miami, Florida.
Aranka Siegal, one of seven children, was, raised in Beregszasz, Hungary. During World War II, when Aranka was thirteen, she and her family were moved from their home to the Beregszasz brick factory, which had been turned into a ghetto to house Jews. Shortly thereafter, they were deported to Auschwitz. Upon their arrival on May 9, 1944, she and her older sister were separated from the rest of the family, and they never saw them again. Eventually, the two girls were sent to Bergen-Belsen, and in 1945 they were rescued by the British First Army. Through the Swedish Red Cross, Aranka and her sister were then brought to Sweden, where they lived for three and a half years before emigrating to the United States.
From earliest childhood, Aranka learned reverence for books from her grandmother, Babi. She was only twelve years old when Jewish children were banned from the public schools. What books her family owned, and what few others could be obtained, became individual treasures, enabling her to escape from her world -- a world that no longer made sense.
Aranka wanted to capture in her own books the human element of the war. In Upon the Head of the Goat, she depicts the emotions of a young Jewish girl caught up in events that were to destroy her world. Grace in the Wilderness is a continuation of that story, but Aranka does not focus on life in the camps. Instead, she describes the aftermath of the war, how she and her sister had, in effect, to learn to live again. Her most recent book, Memories of Babi, is a series of stories based on the author's childhood visits with her grandmother on her farm in the Ukraine, in the years before World War II.
Aranka decided to write for young people "because they will be the recorders of history in books yet to be written . . . I know that having read my story they will remember the meaning of 'scapegoat' and refuse ever to participate in spreading prejudice . . . I believe in the importance of my message and its inherent truth as history."
When Aranka arrived in the United States in 1948, she had to learn yet another way of life and master a sixth language. She married, had two children, and when they went off to college, pursued her own higher education on a formal level. She received her B.A. in social anthropology in 1977, and for a year hosted a radio show on which she recounted her experiences in Hungary and other countries. She also became a substitute teacher and lecturer in schools and colleges. Aranka Siegal now lives in Florida.
UPON THE HEAD OF THE GOAT: A Childhood in Hungary 1939-1944, a 1982 Newbery Honor Book and the recipient of the 1982 Janusz Korezak Literary Award and the 1982 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Nonfiction, was Aranka's first book. Her second book, GRACE IN THE WILDERNESS: After the Liberation 1945-1948, was selected a Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies by the National Council for Social Studies-Children's Book Council Joint Committee.
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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.'
A fantastic read. Would definitely read again.