The White Book

Roller in hand, a boy starts to paint a blank wall. First it’s a plain coat of pink. Then six birds emerge, perched on a branch. Wait, they were there a minute ago! Then he tries the blue paint, and it happens again: fourteen fish swimming in formation, until green paint reveals a giant dinosaur with big teeth and a mind of its own.

I Never Saw Another Butterfly

A total of 15,000 children under the age of fifteen passed through the Terezin Concentration Camp between the years 1942-1944; less than 100 survived. In these poems and pictures drawn by the young inmates of Terezin, we see the daily misery of these uprooted children, as well as their courage and optimism, their hopes and fears. The ghetto of Terezin (Theresienstadt), located in the hills outside Prague, was an unusual concentration camp in that it was created to cover up the Nazi genocide of the Jews. Billed as the “Fuhrer’s gift to the Jews, ” this “model ghetto” was the site of a Red Cross inspection visit in 1944. With its high proportion of artists and intellectuals, culture flourished in the ghetto – alongside starvation, disease, and constant dread of transports to the death camps of the east.

House Held Up by Trees

When the house was new, not a single tree remained on its perfect lawn to give shade from the sun. The children in the house trailed the scent of wild trees to neighboring lots, where thick bushes offered up secret places to play. When the children grew up and moved away, their father, alone in the house, continued his battle against blowing seeds, plucking out sprouting trees. Until one day the father, too, moved away, and as the empty house began its decline, the trees began their approach. At once wistful and exhilarating, this lovely, lyrical story evokes the inexorable passage of time — and the awe-inspiring power of nature to lift us up

Dear Vincent

17 year old, Tara McClusky’s life is hard. She shares the care of her paralysed father with her domineering, difficult mother, forced to cut down on her hours at school to help support the family with a part-time rest home job. She’s very much alone, still grieving the loss of her older sister Van, who died five years before. Her only source of consolation is her obsession with art and painting in particular. Most especially she is enamoured with Vincent Van Gogh: she has read all his letters and finds many parallels between the tragic story of his life and her own. Luckily she meets the intelligent, kindly Professor Max Stockhamer (a Jewish refugee and philosopher) and his grandson Johannes, and their support is crucial to her ability to survive this turbulent time. The book tackles the difficult topic of suicide fearlessly, with a novel that’s not afraid to go to the dark places but which resolves its story beautifully.

See the review at WOW Review, Volume VI, Issue 3