In My Pocket

Dorrith M. Sim, Author, Gerald Fitzgerald, Illustrator Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P $16 (32p) ISBN 978-0-15-201357-8
It is July, 1939, and the young Jewish narrator of this autobiographical picture book has just left Germany on a children's transport. In her first book, Sim finds precisely the details that show that she herself lived the story and that, moreover, allow readers to live it with her. ""Hardly anyone on the boat ate breakfast that morning,"" she begins, telegraphing the general mood of anxiety; she describes the train trip through Holland, where the children are given chocolate bars and milk and sing to their helpers (""One song was about a mermaid,"" the narrator recalls). The adult chaperones are absent from both text and art, an omission that amplifies just how defenseless and bereft the children must have felt. When the girl arrives in London, she is met at the train station by a couple who recognize her from a photograph, and she greets them with the only English words she knows: ""I have a handkerchief in my pocket."" Henceforth she uses that sentence to reinforce all new words (""I have a dog in my pocket""), but the phrase takes on special significance when she receives a single letter from her parents and keeps it in her pocket ""until there was no more war."" Fitzgerald (Casey at the Bat) adds to the powerful sense of Sim's evoked childhood memory with heavily textured oil paintings, the thick strokes reinforcing the strong lines of the story and the broadly rendered compositions also suggesting that parts have been left out. An author's note explains that after the war, Sim had to wait ""a long time"" for news of her parents; that news, undoubtedly tragic, is not reprinted here, but its weight informs this moving story. Ages 5-8. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/31/1997
Release date: 04/01/1997
Genre: Children's
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