There are many books written about the Holocaust for young readers. This one presents a slightly different perspective and a little-known piece of modern Israeli history.
Anna and her father, a clarinet player in one of Poland’s finest orchestras and an esteemed private music teacher, live a genteel and pleasant life in Krakow. Anna enjoys school, socializes with friends, and watches her father’s rehearsals. She’s also a budding clarinet player herself. But it is 1936, and Hitler’s strident voice cannot be silenced on the radio. Classmates begin to treat Anna and other Jewish children unpleasantly, violence against Jewish shopkeepers erupts on the streets — and suddenly, Anna’s world no longer feels safe or secure.
An opportunity to leave for Mandatory Palestine presents itself. A new orchestra is being formed, and Polish musicians are invited to audition. Exit visas will be issued to musicians who successfully audition and to their families, as well. Anna’s father is not sure if he should uproot his family. Perhaps the trouble will blow over. Perhaps the rumors of worse to come are truly only rumors. Anna and her grandmother sense serious danger ahead, and work behind the scenes to make the scary but exciting possibility of a move to Palestine into a reality. The family finds themselves on their way to a new land — one filled with its own hardships and challenges, but also one where they can have new hope for a bright Jewish future.
The story is based on actual events that ultimately led to the formation of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra founded by Bronisław Huberman, who figures prominently in the narrative.
The brave young heroine, her more cautious father, and her resolute grandmother are appealing characters who face difficult choices with grace. Recommended for ages 9 to 12.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A former librarian, she has lectured on topics relating to literacy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.