Chance: Escape from the Holocaust

Farrar. Oct. 2020. 336p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780374313715.
Gr 5-8–Shulevitz, a Caldecott Medalist and celebrated author of children’s literature, offers a profoundly honest memoir that chronicles his childhood during the time of the Holocaust. The work details eight difficult years of survival; Shulevitz and his parents lived as refugees, fleeing Warsaw to many parts of the war-torn European landscape, including the Soviet Union, the city of Turkestan, and France. Shulevitz’s relationship with art, as a means of genuine expression and as a constant companion, is apparent not only in the memories he shares but also in his drawings. His illustrations showcase a great deal of emotional resonance. The drawings are a testament to his mastery of line manipulation; he deftly captures movement and facial expressions. His contemplative narrative voice observes his younger self and his parents, recalling personal uncertainties, regrets, and hopes. His recollections unfold in scenes or moments. The chapter lengths vary from treasured insights to full retellings of his father’s stories, unfolding in response to the pace of constant, sometimes jarring, changes he experienced. It is a privilege to hear this renowned artist reflect on his past, where hunger, loneliness, and fear battled with resilience, family strength, and the power of imagination.
VERDICT Middle school readers will find Shulevitz’s darkly captivating memoir hauntingly impressive and extraordinary. He admirably recollects how art became his guiding light in the darkness.

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