School Library Journal of Ashes
Gr 6-10–Lasky’s novel, set in Berlin in 1932, opens with an author’s note that provides historical background. Gaby Schramm, 13, is an avid reader of world literature, and annoyed that her math teacher confiscates her books. Her unease grows when brown-shirted SA troops of Hitler’s private army start occupying the city, signaling a distinct shift toward repression and anti-Semitism. Gaby’s father, an astrophysics professor and colleague of Albert Einstein, is troubled that Einstein’s work is labeled “Jewish physics,” and Gaby’s mother begins to fear for the safety of her Jewish friend, Baba. Although fascinated by her stylish literature teacher, Gaby withdraws from school after Fraulein Hofstadt presses her to join the Hitler Youth. Then her older sister becomes pregnant and plans to marry Karl, whom Gaby suspects of being a Nazi. Even when the family vacates to their summer house on a lake in Caputh, they cannot escape the darkening political climate, while back in Berlin, banned books are burned on a mammoth pyre. With a compelling plot, a strong sense of place, and vivid characters, the novel brings to life Hitler’s inexorable rise to power and its impact on an intelligent German family forced to reconsider its loyalties.
–Susan W. Hunter, Riverside Middle School, Springfield, VT
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