Book Review: Voices from Colonial America, California

Reading Level

Ages 13-18

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• The Holocaust

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The Thought of High Windows, by Lynne Kositsky, is a thoughtful, sometimes harrowing examination of the life of a German Jewish girl during the Holocaust. It's not exactly light reading, but it is informative.

The subject is a teen named Esther, whose family is punished and then separated by the German Nazis during World War II. The family moves to Belgium but still isn't safe. Eventually, Esther ends up in France, there the virtual prisoner of a group that is trying to keep a large number of children alive by hiding them in a draft barn.

The book brilliantly weaves into Esther's story elements of the lives of people who were indeed shipped off to concentration camps: The children find out that they have little food and littler chance of escape. Esther scratches herself silly trying to combat head lice and has to have her head shaved.

The title comes from Esther's propensity to jump out of windows as a way of escaping the world around her. She usually hurts herself doing so and ends up worse off than before. But she keeps trying, mainly because she manages to make only one friend in her entire series of bad events on the run from the Nazis. That friend is Walter, and it is through his eyes that we see the hope for a better time in the future that filled so many Jews at this time and sustained them through a horrid, terror-filled time in history.

The book meanders along for a good bit, populating its narrative with episodes that fill a couple of years in Esther's life, on the run. We meet and confront other children, the great majority of whom have no use for Esther. We meet nuns and other adults who care for the children and try to keep them from being captured. Then, as sudden as you please, Esther grows up and becomes a member of the Jewish Underground. Although the details are remarkable and the situations Esther faces harrowing, the entire last part of the book seems a little rushed, compacted into a small space, whereas the rest of the book unfolds at a pace that is easy to follow and digest.

The book's ambiguous ending is also indicative of the fates of many people during this time, Jewish or not.

This book might be difficult for some young readers to get through, as realistic as it is, yet is carries a powerful message that we must never forget.

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