cover image The Cat with the Yellow Star: Coming of Age in Terezin

The Cat with the Yellow Star: Coming of Age in Terezin

Susan Goldman Rubin, Ela Weissberger, with Ela Weissberger. . Holiday, $16.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-8234-1831-2

Brundibár , the children's opera that was performed in the Terezin concentration camp and whose story was retold in Tony Kushner and Maurice Sendak's recent picture book, gets a unique "behind-the-scenes" treatment here, in a narrative peppered with Weissberger's quotes. Weissberger, a Jewish girl born Ela Stein in Czechoslovakia, played the titular cat in the Terezin production. Ela was one of the few children who appeared in all 55 performances of Brundibár ; most of the others died at Auschwitz. With Brundibar performances providing a loose narrative thread, the book follows eight-year-old Ela's family from Kristallnacht to her arrival, at age 11, at the "model ghetto," where she is assigned to a bunkroom of 28 girls. The last half of the book follows the preparations for and performances of Brundibár and its role in the Nazis' deceptive propaganda campaign, as well as Terezin's liberation. Photographs and many of the children's drawings accompany the text (Dicker-Brandeis, who provided the art supplies, was the subject of Rubin's Fireflies in the Dark ). An especially harrowing picture called "Summons to Join the Transport" depicts a female guard shining a flashlight on a girl about to be transported to Auschwitz. The book culminates in an upbeat finale: photos depict Weissberger at joyous reunions with her bunkmates (15 of the 28 girls survived), as a new generation of children around the world discover the power of Brundibár. Ages 8-12. (May)