Ashes

 
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Ashes

"Where they burn books, they will end by burning human beings." 19th century German writer, Heinrich Heine

The above quote at the beginning of the book gives the reader an idea of what to expect. It is Berlin, Germany, 1932. Thirteen year old Gabriella (Gaby) Schramm is the younger daughter of an upper middle class family. Her father is a university astronomer and professor Albert Einstein is a close family friend. Gaby enjoys learning and loves books. Unfortunately, her country is slipping into the nightmare of Hitler's Third Reich. How does an advanced, highly educated society willingly give up their freedom and civility? The author presents a convincing and ominous narrative as to how it happened. Through Gaby, what happens to her family and friends humanizes the tragedy. Excerpts from books she is reading introduce each chapter, reinforcing the dramatic series of events. Finding out that their maid is sympathetic to the Nazi, Gaby asks her uncle why? He says she's tired. Gaby doesn't understand. The uncle clarifies that the maid is tired of being poor and a loser because of World War I and the instability that followed. Things quickly get worse and more personal from the Hitler Youth, conflicts at school, anti-Semitism, and violence. At the end of the book Gaby witnesses a book burning. The books include authors who both she and we, the reader, have been reading. Unknowingly being prophetic, she reacts screaming at her sister's fiance, "I'll say whatever I want. I'm not a book. You can't burn me !" I highly recommend this novel. If I was a high school history teacher assigning supplementary reading, I would consider this title. It should be on everyone's YA list. 320 pages

Recommended by Robert L. Hicks, Librarian

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