cover image Alias Anna: A True Story of Outwitting the Nazis

Alias Anna: A True Story of Outwitting the Nazis

Susan Hood with Greg Dawson. HarperCollins, $16.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-308389-9

This hard-hitting nonfiction biography told in verse documents the escape of two Jewish teen piano prodigies who assumed aliases to avoid Nazi persecution during WWII. Ukrainian Zhanna Arshanskaya and her sister Frina enjoyed a childhood filled with music until Stalin’s persecutions and antisemitism forced their family to move to Kharkov, where they lived meagerly until the girls’ talent earned them scholarships to a music conservatory. Hood’s tone shifts dramatically when Nazis storm the city in 1941 (“life was merry for Zhanna...// Then one morning started the beginning of the end”) and soldiers evacuate all Jews on a march toward almost certain death at Drobitsky Yar. Zhanna and Frina, then 14 and 12, narrowly escape back to Kharkov and, with assistance, assume new identities as Anna and Marina Morazova, soon becoming renowned pianists who perform across Europe during the war. While tonally light poems can feel at odds with the wrenching content, quotes from Zhanna herself, collected from Dawson’s biography for adults, Hiding in the Spotlight, and rendered in italics throughout (“I was born busy—eaten up by curiosity”), impart weight and power to this accessible portrait of two talented and determined teens. Comprehensive end notes include maps, photographs, letters, and more. Ages 10–up. Agent: Brenda Bowen, Book Group. (Mar.)