The Year of Goodbyes: A True Story of Friendship, Family, and Farewells

Debbie Levy, Author Disney-Hyperion $16.99 (136p) ISBN 978-1-4231-2901-1

Artfully weaving together her mother’s poesiealbum (autograph/poetry album), diary, and her own verse, Levy crafts a poignant portrait of her Jewish mother’s life in 1938 Nazi Germany that crackles with adolescent vitality. Chapters open with photo reproductions and translations of friends’ comments from 12-year-old Jutta Salzburg’s album. Mostly platitudes, they sharply contrast with Jutta’s frank view of increasing anti-Semitism. “Always honor your elders,” writes one friend, to which Levy (in Jutta’s voice) writes, “Always, Cilly? Always ?/ I should honor the Wahls,/ my parents’ friends,/ even after Herr Wahl/ stopped playing cards with Father?/ .... Hitler is my elder.” Levy creates a three-dimensional snapshot of this year of upheaval, from sweet family life to the sorrow of losing friends and the terror of seeing her father threaten to jump out of an official’s window if his family doesn’t obtain visas. They do and immigrate to the U.S., but many of Jutta’s friends and family do not survive, as Levy’s sober afterword relates. While abstaining from horrific details, this book clearly presents key historical events, and more importantly, their direct impact on a perceptive girl. Ages 10–up. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 01/25/2010
Release date: 03/01/2010
Genre: Children's
Paperback - 144 pages - 978-1-4847-2296-1
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