cover image The Key Is Lost

The Key Is Lost

Ida Vos. HarperCollins, $15.95 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-688-16283-2

As in her previous works (Hide and Seek; Dancing on the Bridge of Avignon), Vos bases this revelatory series of vignettes on her experiences as a Jewish child in Holland during WWII. This time her protagonist, 12-year-old Eva, goes into hiding with her whole family, but no place is truly safe. Their first refuge is shared with another family; the protectors worry that having so many people poses too great a risk, and it is Eva's family that must leave. Their next hosts are a man who tells anti-Semitic jokes (he takes in Jews only because he hates the Germans), and his wife, who is having an affair. The wife's lover, hoping to have the husband arrested, plans to inform the Germans about the Jews in the house, and Eva's family flees in the nick of time. Soon Eva and her younger sister are separated from their parents and forced to cope with acutely frightening circumstances. The precariousness of the hiding places, the dangers of moving from one to another and the girls' unnatural existence within them are thrown into sharp relief as Vos distills each scene to its most telling moments. She has a particular talent for demonstrating the protective powers of the fantasies the girls slip into and for re-creating their private world. As usual the author eschews description and exposition, instead relaying the action through her characters' observations and exchanges. Ultimately hopeful, this book brings home the sorrows and terrors of the hidden children. Ages 8-12. (May)