What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper | SLJ Review

Gr 7 Up –Fifteen-year-old Gerta Rausch did not know she was Jewish until the day she was picked up by the Nazis and taken to a concentration camp.

redstarSTAMPER, Vesper. What the Night Sings. illus. by Vesper Stamper. 272p. Knopf. Feb. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781524700386.

Gr 7 Up –Fifteen-year-old Gerta Rausch did not know she was Jewish until the day she was picked up by the Nazis and taken to a concentration camp. She lived in Germany with her musician father and was sheltered from the reality outside her home, spending all of her time training in viola and opera. Gerta’s father reveals the truth as they are crammed into a train car. Gerta struggles to accept this news; she knows nothing of Jewish traditions and her only experience with her religion is tied up with hatred, abuse, and slaughter. Being allowed to play in orchestras keeps her alive in both Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Although the narrative describes life before liberation, much of it focuses on the postwar experience: life in concentration camps–turned–“displaced persons camps,” lingering hostility toward Jews, as well as the grueling journey many Jews made from Europe to Palestine. The illustration style and muted color palette work beautifully with the text, managing to communicate both despair and hope. The narrative is spare but powerful as it depicts the daily horrors of the camps and the struggle to survive, hold on to humanity and, once freed, understand how to live again. ­VERDICT This powerful story is an excellent choice for any library.—Carla Riemer, Claremont Middle School, Oakland This review was published in the School Library Journal February 2018 issue.

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