cover image Waiting for Anya

Waiting for Anya

Michael Morpurgo. Viking Children's Books, $14.99 (174pp) ISBN 978-0-670-83735-9

Like the acclaimed Number the Stars , this well-plotted novel features a young Gentile hero battling the Germans in their war against the Jews. As it opens, Jo is guarding the sheep when his dog alerts him to a bear; Jo warns the villagers in his small French town and they kill the hapless beast. The theme here prefigures the more tragic hunt for human prey, while the bear chase itself brings Jo into contact with Benjamin, the reclusive Widow Horcada's Jewish son-in-law, who is hiding in her mountain home. Separated from Anya, his daughter, Benjamin hides other Jewish children and leads them to safety in nearby Spain. Jo is soon enlisted, bringing supplies to the widow's house. Then the Germans encamp in Jo's village, observing everyone and sealing the Spanish border. Jo's concern for the Jews is measured against his reluctant awareness that the German occupiers are not uniformly evil--in fact, the villagers' relations with the Germans form the most distinctive element of the story. Although some key elements are historically improbable (chiefly, a German officer's partial rejection of Nazi principles), the adventure of the Jews' escape into Spain is both gripping and temperate. Ages 10-14. (Apr.)