cover image Crutches


Peter Hartling. HarperCollins, $12.95 (163pp) ISBN 978-0-688-07991-8

In the early days of peacetime following World War II, refugees like Thomas, 12, wander across Europe searching for food, families, connections of any kind. In Vienna, Thomas is sheltered by a one-legged man known as Crutchesa former German officer who, unlike Thomas, despises Nazism. Together they make their way back to Germany, a trip that both deepens their attachment to one another yet signals a painful and inevitable parting. The German author, who lost his parents in the war when he was approximately Thomas's age, says his story ``is about the struggle to begin again when all seems to be lost.'' In this translation, it has an austere, elliptical style that matches the reluctance of the characters to be openly emotional. But its poignancy mounts; and by the end, when the question of whether Thomas will find his mother aliveleaving Crutches for heris answered, it achieves an overwhelming power. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)