For fans of The Book Thief and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas comes a lushly illustrated novel about a teen Holocaust survivor, who must come to terms with who she is and how to rebuild her life.
After losing her family and everything she knew in the Nazi concentration camps, Gerta is finally liberated, only to find herself completely alone. Without her Papa, her music, or even her true identity, she must move past the task of surviving and onto living her life. In the displaced persons camp where she is staying, Gerta meets Lev, a fellow teen survivor who she just might be falling for, despite her feelings for someone else. With a newfound Jewish identity she never knew she had, and a return to the life of music she thought she lost forever, Gerta must choose how to build a new future.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Violence, Mild sexual themes
Booklist (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 9-12. Before Nazis dragged Gerta Rausch and her father to the Theresienstadt ghetto and, ultimately, to Auschwitz, Gerta was different. Literally. According to her Ahnenpass, a certificate of Aryan lineage, she was Gerta Richter. She had no knowledge of her Jewish heritage; she also had a white-hot passion for all things music. Now, her familiarity with viola—and enrollment in the Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz—has saved her life, but Gerta has yet to salvage her greatest love from the rubble: her singing voice. But one boy may be dead set on helping her find it. Sifting through the war’s aftermath, Stamper’s debut spotlights a multitude of oft-overlooked topics, from postwar pogroms and the Bergen-Belsen displaced-persons camp where Gerta resides, to the budding Zionist movement. Stamper’s ethereal sepia-toned illustrations, teetering between black-and-white and full color, beautifully convey Gerta’s dilemma as a girl on the brink of both adolescence and adulthood, friendship and romance, silence and song. A well-researched, elegant, and fittingly melodic exploration of reclaiming one’s voice—and the many kinds of faith it can spark.
Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2018)
This moving, beautifully illustrated novel begins with the 1945 liberation of Bergen-Belsen, when adolescent survivor Gerta is relocated to a displaced persons camp. The time Stamper spends on Gerta’s postwar story, a somewhat unusual focus for a Holocaust novel, allows for thoughtful exploration of the particular challenges of rebuilding a life after the Holocaust’s devastation. Gerta, still healing emotionally and physically, finds herself making decisions about her romantic, religious, and artistic future that seem startling in their speed. A long flashback gives context for the peculiar assortment of memories influencing her now: she grew up a promising musician and learned of her Jewish background and real last name (Rausch, not Richter) only when her father revealed the truth on the train to Theresienstadt. The flashback traces Gerta’s experiences from the fear and starvation of the ghetto to the even more horrific conditions of Auschwitz-Birkenau (her father is immediately sent to his death; Gerta survives largely because her musical ability places her in the Women’s Orchestra, where she is forced to serenade women and children on their walk to the gas chamber). Dreamlike prose and digitally toned black-and-white illustrations in ink wash, white gouache, and graphite, ranging from spot art to spacious full-bleed wordless spreads, combine with thick, creamy paper to create a volume with the feel of an art object. Back matter includes an author’s note about Stamper’s inspiration and her research visits to concentration camps, a glossary, a map, and resources. shoshana flax
About the Author
Vesper Stamper was born in Nuremberg, Germany and raised in New York City. Her family was an eclectic mix of engineers, musicians and artists who didn’t think Voltaire too tough for bedtime reading, Chopin Valses too loud for wake-up calls, or precision slide rules too fragile as playthings. She married filmmaker Ben Stamper right out of college, and together they have two wildly creative children. When Vesper earned her MFA in Illustration from School of Visual Arts, Ben gave her an orange tree. She illustrates and writes under its leaves and blossoms at her grandfather’s old drafting table, in the pine woods of the Northeast.
Her website is www.vesperillustration.com
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