cover image The Night Crossing

The Night Crossing

Karen Ackerman. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $14 (56pp) ISBN 978-0-679-83169-3

Set in Austria in 1938, Ackerman's ( Song and Dance Man ) tale of a Jewish family's escape to Switzerland is long on drama but somewhat short on facts. When Clara's father decides the family must leave their home in Innsbruck, he begins by selling their valuables--except for an heirloom pair of silver Sabbath candlesticks. He uses the money to arrange for the family to travel to Switzerland, on foot; they will tell the border guards that they are Swiss citizens returning from an Austrian holiday. They hide the candlesticks in Clara's sister's petticoats--but the silver clinks. Clara saves the day by suggesting that they hide the candlesticks inside her two straw-filled dolls, and then she cleverly and courageously evades the Nazi guard who asks her a trick question about her toys. The plot has plenty of heartstopping moments, and the story line about the dolls is sure to engage many. Given the neatly established premise, it is a pity that the historical details are treated lightly. For example, Ackerman throws in casual references to ``the Resistance,'' and much is made of the yellow stars sewn to the characters' coats (the stars were not introduced until 1941). Illustrations not seen by PW. Ages 7-10. (Apr.)