Masters of Silence

272p. (Heroes Quartet: Bk. 2). Annick. Mar. 2019. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781773212616; Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781773212623.
Gr 4–7—When Helen and Henry's mother leaves them at a convent in Nazi-occupied France, they have no idea what to expect, or if they will ever see their parents again. The nuns at the convent expect them to learn Catholic rituals and prayers and assume new, non-Jewish names in order to pretend that they are Catholic orphans. Fourteen-year-old Helen works hard to stay out of trouble, but her younger brother Henry struggles to fit in, refusing to talk to anyone, even his older sister. Their life in the convent is largely filled with hard work and fear about the future until a remarkable silent "clown" named Marcel Marceau arrives to entertain them. Henry is especially captivated by the man's magical routines, staying behind after each performance to learn some of his miming techniques. These techniques become the key to Helen and Henry's survival when Marcel Marceau leads them on a grueling, harrowing journey to cross the border to safety in Switzerland. This gripping series title captures the uncertainty and tragedy of life for Jewish families and their allies during the Nazi occupation of France. The alternating perspectives throughout the book allow readers to understand both Henry's silence and Helen's frustration, even when the characters don't understand each other. The novel is interwoven with the remarkable true story of Marcel Marceau, who helped save the lives of hundreds of children before becoming a world-famous mime. The story ends with the characters' successful escape across the border but leaves readers to wonder about the fate of Henry and Helen's parents.
VERDICT This well-crafted novel with its compelling, sympathetic characters is an excellent addition to most school and public library historical fiction collections.

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