Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Pastel Orphans by Gemma Liviero

"Nana tells me that Opa has died. I am not sure if I should cry, because death has never been discussed before, and Mama has to explain that Opa is now in the earth. The discovery of death is shocking, and I picture my grandfather lying alone in the ground, his ears full of soil. Death is too close - as close as the thinking chair for bad behavior. I can't see it from where I'm standing, but it waits for me quietly in the next room. It knows I will come eventually." Opening Paragraph

Synopsis:  In 1930s Berlin, young Henrik, the son of a Jewish father and Aryan mother, watches the world around him crumbling: people are rioting in the streets, a strange yellow star begins appearing in shop windows, and friends are forced to move—or they simply disappear.
After his father becomes gravely ill, Henrik and his little sister, Greta, are taken by their mother to Poland for safety. However, not even the pastoral surroundings of their new home can protect them from the terrors of war. When the Nazis invade and Greta is kidnapped, Henrik must shed his youthful innocence and search for his lost sister, a quest that will further reveal a harrowing landscape of violence and struggle―but also unexpected connections.
Uniquely told from the perspective of youth plunged into adult chaos, Pastel Orphans is a coming-of-age story that explores profound lessons in self-belief, kindness, and human endurance.

Review by Mirella Patzer

The cover tells much about the story contained in this book's pages. Two vulnerable young children, alone, running away into the unknown. There is much to love about this World War II story. As the Nazis gain power in Germany, half Jewish, Henrik, his Aryan mother, and his little blonde and blue eyed sister flee to Poland to live with a relative where they can be safe from the Germans. But soon, the German soldies infilitrate Poland too. They steal Greta from them, devastating Henrik's mother. Henrik makes it his mission to find and rescue his little sister from the clutches of the kidnappers. As he leaves home to begin his search, he becomes involved with members of the Resistence. And his life will never be the same as he risks life and death in his quest. 

Although stories involving World War II are my least favorite genre, I must admit that I was thoroughly pleased with this novel. I think it's because it is written from the point of view of the civilians who suffered rather than the military / political point of view. And this gave it a very poignant and human flavor. Love and hate, life and death, despair and hope, are all underlying themes. Easy to read, fascinating characters, treachery, and numerous plot twists made for quite a page turner. With it's highly satisfying ending, there is much here to entertain. Highly recommended.

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