Let the Celebrations Begin!
Margaret Wild / Author, Julie Vivas / Illustrator Orchard Book
Discussing Nazi concentration camps in a picture book demands an extraordinary balance of sensitivity and fidelity to history; Wild and Vivas make a brave effort but fall short of attaining this standard. The story plunges the reader into an unnamed concentration camp--indeed, no clues are supplied to explain either the camp's existence or its prisoners' presence there. There are neither guards nor guns; and the story line contains similar omissions. Just prior to the camp's liberation, Miriam, just old enough to remember home, plentiful food and toys, joins women in gathering odd scraps to fashion into toys, to be given to the other children after they are freed. (A prefatory note mentioning toys created by the women of Belsen attempts to authenticate this improbable plot; more likely these were made after liberation.) Throughout an effort is made to put a good face on horror: suffering is suggested visually chiefly by twisting the big-eyed characters into grotesque postures, and there's something monstrous about forcing the moribund into cheerful attitudes. The book will raise disturbing questions, but leaves it to others to offer the even more disturbing answers. Ages 3-6. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/29/1991