cover image The Circlemaker

The Circlemaker

Maxine Rose Schur. Dial Books, $14.99 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1354-3

Mendel is only 12 when the czar's soldiers come to his shtetl with an order to conscript all Jewish boys for 25 years of service in the army. As his classmates are plucked off the streets or flee with their families, Mendel resolves on his own to run away, hoping to breach the dangerous Green Border into Hungary and from there find a way to America. He cuts off his earlocks but pledges to preserve his ties to Judaism and his father's teachings even as he plunges into the unknown. More atmospheric and suspenseful than Carol Matas's Sworn Enemies , which also examines the czarist conscription of Jewish children, Schur's novel suggests both the warmth and the narrowness of the shtetl (`` `Not Dovid . . . not Chaim . . . ' Reb Svinsky was taking the roll and at the same time fooling the Evil Eye. What bad spirit could do harm to children who were not there?''), and the vastness of the world Mendel enters. The author conveys the adventure and daring of Mendel's escape, maintaining an edge-of-the-seat tension until the very last words. Ages 9-12. (Feb.)