cover image No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War

No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War

Anita Lobel. Greenwillow Books, $17.99 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-688-15935-1

Few admirers of Lobel's sunny picture book art (On Market Street) would guess at the terrors of Lobel's own childhood. Here, in beautifully measured prose, she offers a memoir that begins in 1939, when the author was five, as German soldiers march into her native Krakow; Lobel's adored father, the owner of a chocolate factory and a religious Jew, flees soon after, in the middle of the night (""He had kissed me in the night, and I did not know it""). Deportations begin, and before long the author and her younger brother (who is dressed as a girl) are sent to the country, in the care of their Niania (nanny). Thus the two children embark on years of flight, on a turbulent course involving assumed identities, blackmailers, a dangerous stay in the Krakow ghetto, concealment in a convent, capture and concentration camps. In 1945 the children are liberated, in Ravensbruck, and brought to Sweden to recuperate from what turns out to be tuberculosis, and they are eventually reunited with both parents. Lobel brings to these dramatic experiences an artist's sensibility for the telling detail, a seemingly unvarnished memory and heartstopping candor. Focused on survival, the child narrator does not pity herself or express her terror: she observes everyone keenly and cannily sizes them up. This piercing and graceful account is rewarding for readers of all ages. It may prove especially valuable for children who have graduated from Lobel's picture books and who may therefore feel they ""know"" her; this memoir would help such readers build a personal connection to WWII and its tragic lessons. A 12-page inset of family photos is included. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)