Monday, November 27, 2017

Hedy's Journey: The true story of a Hungarian girl fleeing the Holocaust by Michelle Bisson, illustrated by El primo Ramon

Hedy doesn't think she's brave - she only knows that she must escape. It's 1941 and Hedy's cousin, Marika, has just been deported from Hungary. They know she will most likely die. Even though they are Hungarian, not Polish, Hedy's family knows this is their last chance to get out, but they will have to split up. Hedy's mother and younger brother Robert travel together and her father makes his way alone. Hedy must travel across Europe on her own. When she finally makes it to Barcelona, she is reunited with her family, but their journey is not yet over. It will be many long weeks and frightening moments before they finally arrive in the United States and are once again free.

The back matter in the book includes a timeline of World War II that is matched with the experiences of Hedy's family. It also includes an author's note. Bisson tells the rest of Hedy's story - which includes her own. When Bisson was in sixth grade she learned about the Holocaust and, horrified, asked her mother if it was true. This is the story her mother told her, of her own flight from the Nazis. Bisson was raised to value justice and freedom for all and speaks about how her mother fought against racial injustice in the United States. She pays tribute to those who died, including her mother's cousin Marika. Photographs of her family, a glossary, and further reading is included.

This is a gentle introduction to younger readers of the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust. Bisson speaks matter-of-factly about the death and persecution endured by the Jews and others, about those who died in concentration camps and on the dangerous journey. There are not graphic descriptions of atrocities and the soft pastel browns, pinks, and grays of the illustrations make the story feel realistic and yet not too frightening.

Verdict: For parents looking for a way to introduce their children to the Holocaust and to teach them about difficult subjects, this is a good choice. It emphasizes the people who helped, the good along with the bad, and while it is a true story and doesn't shy away from the facts it isn't all bleak, leaving space for Hedy and her friends to have brief happy moments and hope for the future. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781515769941; Published 2017 by Capstone; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

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