cover image Long Summer Nights

Long Summer Nights

Aharon Appelfeld, trans. from the TK by Jeffrey Green, illus. by Vali Mintzi. Triangle Square, $18.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-60980-898-3

In his posthumously published second novel for young readers, Holocaust survivor and award-winning author Appelfeld (Adam & Thomas) tells the WWII story of an 11-year-old Jewish boy, Michael, whose father entrusts him to Grandpa Sergei, a Ukrainian former army master sergeant, who worked in the family lumber business before becoming blind. After changing Michael’s name to Yanek and putting a cross around his neck to “make the camouflage complete,” Grandpa Sergei introduces Yanek to a wanderer’s life, saying, “True wanderers want to purify themselves, to draw near to God, and thereby to help those in need.” Together, they walk from village to village, eating by campfire, sleeping outside, and begging near churches on Sundays. During their travels, Grandpa Sergei asks Yanek to read aloud the Psalms and trains him to be a fit soldier, because a “sound body will protect you and your soul.” Their whimsical conversations strike variations on themes—trusting God, contemplating the soul—while Mintzi’s spare, black-and-white drawings convey both melancholy and wonder. While some readers may find the narrative dull and disjointed, others will appreciate this poignant tale of loss and survival. Ages 10–14. [em](Aug.) [/em]