Friday, February 06, 2009

Children’s Books: The Diary of Laura’s Twin by Kathy Kacer

In The Diary of Laura’s Twin (Allen & Unwin) we meet Laura, a middle class Canadian Jewish girl about to do her bat mitzvah, the coming-of-age ceremony Jewish girls do at the age of 12. She has already raised money for African charities and as far as she is concerned, she has done her bat mitzvah project.

The rabbi running the bar/bat mitzvah preparation class has other ideas. He asks his students to do another project, in which each of them will be “twinned” with a child who never had the chance to do their own coming of age during the Holocaust.

At first, Laura is annoyed. She has studied the Holocaust at school and right now, she has homework, sports and other activities to keep her busy. However, she agrees to pay one visit to Mrs. Mandelkorn, an elderly woman who hands her a diary, translated into English, of a girl called Sara Gittler, who was in the Warsaw Ghetto, just before the uprising. Despite herself, Laura is drawn into Sara’s story. She begins to wonder how she would feel if, like Sara, she had a lot more to worry about than her own small problems. Sara’s diary also inspires her to help a friend find the courage to do the right thing after witnessing an incident of racist vandalism. If people had had such courage during the war, she believes, perhaps the Holocaust wouldn’t have happened.

The Diary of Laura’s Twin ends with some biographies of real people involved in the Ghetto uprising, plus a man who looked after orphans, mentioned in the novel. It includes some useful Web sites for those who want to follow up the subject. The photos throughout the book are well chosen and remind you that while the characters are fictional, the background isn’t. In these days of Holocaust denial that’s important.

I declare my interest, here, as the child of Holocaust survivors, one of whom, my father, was a survivor of the Ghetto uprising. As such, I found it hard even to start this book, though I’m glad I did. To be honest, I didn’t find it quite as powerful as Once, Morris Gleitzman’s child Holocaust novel. However, it’s a good introduction to the subject for children. Apparently, “twinning” is a genuine activity, which the author had witnessed, giving her the idea for the story. I haven’t heard of it, myself, but found it interesting.

The language is simple and even reluctant readers should be able to manage it. Recommended.

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Anonymous Purple Butterflies said...

What a wonderful idea to help children empathsize with kids who haven't had as good. Pull them out of their video games and show them the real world again and a way that perhaps they can change it.

DW Golden
Let in a little magic with Purple Butterflies, a new young adult novel now available at Amazon.

Friday, February 6, 2009 12:29:00 PM PST  

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