|pic courtesy flipkart|
Written by Jackie French
Published by HarperCollins Children's Books
Mark, Anna, Tracey and Ben play a story game as they wait for their school bus every day. They have stories of fairies, of ball games and of horses. Until one day Anna decides to tell a story. It is an amazing story set on the fringes of a great war. It is the story of a child growing up tucked away from all the action, a privileged child who is kept safe despite not being the blue-eyed, blond, tall Aryan ideal, a child hungry for family and love, holding on to memories of the few-and-far between visits of her father. A father who obviously is somebody important. Important enough that people around her who have always taken care of her are in mortal fear of displeasing him. We are told early enough that the child, Heidi, is Hitler's daughter.
Anna's story focuses on the genocide from the outside in, raising many questions in Mark's mind. What if one's parent or child has done something really evil- how does one deal with such a parent/ child? Does one love them regardless? Do the sins of our parents taint us irrevocably, or is there redemption? Do the actions of someone dear reflect on us as individuals? How does society look upon those who stand in evil's shadow? Is a bad thing really a bad thing, or are we just victims of our convictions? Do we have a right to raise our hand against someone else's questionable behaviour if we, too, might be in the wrong in our own time?
These are very profound existential questions, and Jackie French, (interviewed here on Saffron Tree), in her inimitable chatty style, raises them through Mark's thoughts, without thrusting them at us. There are also references to Australia's own genocide- the colonial actions against their Aborigine population.
It has been so realistically told that we are left wondering if Hitler indeed, did have a daughter that no-one knows about. Also, it is an unusual look at the Holocaust; a great book to introduce them to it, along with Number the Stars and When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. There are no grisly portrayals of the deaths, as the point of view is of a privileged, though unfortunate girl.
This page-turner of a book was devoured by A in an afternoon. She has been, since, recommending it to many of her friends.
Cross-posted at Saffrontree.