It's 1940 in Paris and Gustave, age 11, is competing to win the prize in the scavenger hunt against the other teams in his Scout troop. It's boyish vying for position that is about to be overtaken by the Germans on the march through Europe. Gustave is Jewish and bit by bit he and his family are going to begin to experience hatred and prejudice against Jews. When the Germans begin to threaten their world, Papa and Mama decide to move the family into a small village far from the prominence of Paris. Maybe there they can find sanctuary. These are dark and difficult times even in the most remote corners and as the Germans cross the borders into Luxembourg and Belgium, the family takes to the road heading for Spain and finds themselves dodging bullets from the German planes attacking them from overhead and witnessing brutality and destruction they have never seen before. Now, the "Paris boy," as Gustave is sneeringly referred to, and his parents begin to watch the world around them crumble. The Germans agree to an "armistice" with the French and the French government announces that no Jewish people can hold jobs in the government, the law and the civil service. Jewish teachers are fired and food becomes scarce. Even Jewish businesses are being grabbed by the Vichy government. As you can see, the story of the family becomes a vehicle to educate readers about the experience of being Jewish in this dark time. The details of everyday life reveal the constant humiliation and bombardment against the Jewish way of life. Maybe the best way to survive is to come with a plan to escape. Gustave makes a friend of a girl named Nicole whose father is active in the French Resistance and the family must decide if they will risk everything and everyone to escape. This is a carefully written story with great attention to detail using information from the stories of many who actually survived these difficult days. For children who wonder what it was like back then or what it would have been like to have been Jewish in those times, this is a fine historical record. 228 pages Ages 9-14
- Historical Fiction
- Black Radishes
Delacorte, November 2010
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