The Crystal Beads, Lalka’s Journey

Purple Butterfly Pr. Jun. 2022. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781955119207.
K-Gr 3–Lalka, a Jewish child, is being taught by her mother to hide her Jewish faith in preparation of being hidden in a Catholic convent in the era of the Holocaust. The Holocaust is never explicitly mentioned, however the expressive pastel drawings, mostly spreads, depict sorrow in the faces of Lalka and the people who love and care for her. The story is largely told in narrative, with limited descriptions of 60–120 words per page; the pages describing Lalka’s meeting of the soldiers are dramatic: dark scribbled background, Lalka’s back, soldiers seen in shadows lit by large window. Lalka’s survival is in her ability to repeat Catholic prayers. The afterword describes a project of Whitwell Middle School’s Children’s Holocaust Memorial and a method for readers to connect with the enormity of the Holocaust. The book also includes questions for children and for adults. As historical fiction, the book lacks the emotional tie and grounding into reality that is necessary to place Holocaust stories as fact-based events that happened to children and families. The denouement centers on the concept of sin and assumes that readers have grown up with an understanding of Jewish and Catholic religious practice and cultural traditions. The book lacks an explanation of what a convent is and the significance of the rosary and the Star of David.
VERDICT An additional purchase for libraries seeking books about this topic from a child’s point of view or who want to participate in a potential school project that conveys some of the destructive magnitude of the Holocaust.

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