The Promise

Pni­na Bat Zvi & Margie Wolfe; Isabelle Car­di­nal, illus.

  • Review
By – August 27, 2018

This book about two sis­ters liv­ing at Auschwitz is based on a true fam­i­ly sto­ry — authors Pni­na Bat Zvi and Margie Wolfe are the sis­ters’ children.

Toby, the old­er of the two sis­ters, car­ries gold coins in a shoe paste tin. Two years ear­li­er, on the night their par­ents were arrest­ed, their father gave the girls the coins and told them to stay togeth­er, no mat­ter what — that it would be their only chance for survival.

When Rachel, the younger sis­ter, falls ill, the girls are sep­a­rat­ed for the first time. Using the coins, Toby bribes a guard to let her into the bar­rack where Rachel is being held and res­cues her. As pun­ish­ment, Toby receives a lash­ing. The sis­ters ulti­mate­ly sur­vive, and when the coins are long gone, they have kept their promise to their par­ents that they would stay together.

Illus­tra­tor Isabelle Car­di­nal does a fine job of show­ing the dis­so­nance of the camp through her mut­ed-tone col­lages. The shift­ing point of view is cum­ber­some, but the sto­ry, which empha­sizes sur­vival through sis­ter­hood, is heartwarming.

Bar­bara Kras­ner is the author of many books across gen­res, includ­ing fic­tion, poet­ry, cre­ative non­fic­tion, and chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture. Her recent titles include 37 Days at Sea: Aboard the M.S. St. Louis, 1939, Civil­ian Casu­al­ties in War and Ethel’s Song: Ethel Rosen­berg’s Life in Poems. Her book Goldie Takes a Stand! Gol­da Meir’s First Cru­sade was a recip­i­ent of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Hon­or Award. She holds a Ph.D. in Holo­caust and geno­cide stud­ies from Gratz Col­lege, teach­es in the Holo­caust and geno­cide stud­ies pro­gram at the Col­lege of New Jer­sey, and serves as direc­tor of the Mer­cer Coun­ty Holo­caust, Geno­cide, and Human Rights Edu­ca­tion Cen­ter. She also holds an MFA in writ­ing for chil­dren and young adults from the Ver­mont Col­lege of Fine Arts.

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