Greenhorn

Anna Olswanger, Author, Miriam Nerlove, Illustrator
Anna Olswanger, illus. by Miriam Nerlove. NewSouth/Junebug, $17.95 (48p) ISBN 978-1-58838-235-1
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An earnest boy who stutters, Aaron knows what it means to be an outsider in his yeshiva in 1946 Brooklyn (his classmates have nicknamed him “Gravel Mouth”). When an orphaned Holocaust survivor named Daniel arrives clutching a tin box he refuses to give up or talk about, Aaron feels an instant connection. But Daniel’s sense of loss and displacement is far greater than Aaron can imagine, and it takes a slow building of trust and a courageous stand by Aaron before the young refugee will open up. Inspired by a true story (related in an afterword) and previously published in a limited edition by the author in 2006, Olswanger’s tale evinces a fine ear for the rough-and-tumble speech of city kids and an eye for detail. The narrative is unevenly paced and often hard to follow, however, and the mystery that Olswanger (Shlemiel Crooks) tries to build around the contents of Daniel’s box, however horrific, feels like a distraction. Nerlove’s watercolors, new to this edition, add punctuations of color to the story, but little in terms of character depth or dramatic tension. Ages 9–12. (Nov.)
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