cover image The Wren and the Sparrow

The Wren and the Sparrow

J. Patrick Lewis, illus. by Yevgenia Nayberg. Kar-Ben, $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4677-1951-3

Set during the Holocaust, this fable takes readers to a small Polish town where life “hung on the edge of the despair.” The Nazis have silenced protest and inflicted deprivation on the inhabitants, but when “the Tyrant’s guards” confiscate all the musical instruments (“Once, many years ago, music could be heard in the streets at all hours”), a hurdy-gurdy player nicknamed the Wren and his devoted student, the Sparrow, take one last stand to preserve their humanity. Through a twist of fate and the dedication of one person, their story of artistic courage is kept alive. Lewis (Harlem Hellfighters), the former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate, writes in elevated, allusive, but always approachable language: “A six-year-old’s only possession, ten finger cymbals, tinkled like the sound of spring escaping winter.” Nayberg’s solemn, stylized images portray people who are exhausted and terrorized (several images are genuinely frightening) but holding onto hope. Rendered in fragmented curvilinear shapes and translucent, mottled browns and greens, they may remind young readers of stained glass, while adults will see the influence of European expressionism. Ages 8–12. (Mar.)