Originally published in Canada in 2012, this grim novel from Skrypuch (Last Airlift) offers an inside look at a little-known aspect of WWII: the Nazis’ capture of millions of non-Jewish youths, many of them Ukrainian, who were forced to become slave laborers, known as Ostarbeiters. While most were older teenagers or in their 20s, some were as young as 12—or younger, like 10-year-old narrator Lida, who pretends to be 13 to avoid an even-worse fate. Orphaned before the book opens, Lida and her five-year-old sister, Larissa, are separated in the early pages; after that, Lida and her fellow child laborers endure relentless days of cruelty—cold, hunger, filth, abuse, and grueling work—punctuated by deaths. Transferred from one taxing assignment to another, the children form deep bonds, supporting and caring for each other, but Lida’s desperate anxiety about Larissa is a constant heavy backdrop to her bleak existence, and to the novel. The story’s unyielding harshness is somewhat mitigated by its strong undercurrent of friendship and loyalty; an author’s note gives further background on this important piece of history. Ages 8–12. Agent: Dean Cooke, Cooke Agency. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/28/2016 Release date: 02/28/2017 Genre: Children's
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