cover image Good Night, Maman

Good Night, Maman

Norma Fox Mazer, Mazer. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-15-201468-1

This story of a WWII French-Jewish refugee suggests the grimness of the era without becoming too formidable for young readers to ingest. Indicating, but not dwelling upon her heroine's suffering, Mazer (When She Was Good) traces the 12-year-old's arduous journey to freedom. The Nazis have sent Karin's father to Poland, and the rest of the family lives in hiding in a French woman's attic. Soon, however, the arrangement becomes too dangerous and Karin, her older brother and their mother are forced to flee south. Maman falls ill and is unable to complete the journey; the children regretfully continue on their own, eventually gaining passage on a ship to America. The second half of the novel takes place in the same refugee camp in Oswego, N.Y., that served as the setting for Miriam Bat-Ami's Two Suns in the Sky (Children's Forecasts, May 17). While Bat-Ami's portrayal of the refugee camp has more depth, Mazer's writing is more fluid. Karin and her brother, Marc, struggle to overcome homesickness and begin a new life. Karin gradually lets go of the past, finally realizing that she will never see her beloved Maman again. The issues are somewhat neatened for the sake of young readers; this story may serve as an introduction to the Holocaust and its effect on survivors, but doesn't have the impact of other titles in this genre. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)