When I first brought this children’s book home to read, my intention was to post a review on our library’s pages for my students. It is a Batchelder Honor title (2015) by Aharon Appelfeld, translated from Hebrew to English by Jeffrey M. Green, with William Steig-like illustrations by Phillipe Dumas. I had never heard of the author, translator, or illustrator, but these award books are among my favorites. Regardless of my ignorance, outside on a sunny Saturday afternoon I settled into our somewhat tattered wicker chair, and opened the pages.
It is a short story really, with many “lessons” to be gleaned through the relationship between these two boys living in the forest in order to escape from persecution by the German Nazis. Although not great, it is a good story.If not for the added “About the Author” paragraph, this would have been just another title on my list for “Books In Translation” lesson without another thought given. Yet, a librarian’s duty is to read every page, to expound on that which is subtle and elusive to her charges. And so, I learn about this remarkable author. It becomes personal.
He is a child survivor of the Holocaust. At the age of eight, Appelfeld escaped from a concentration camp and lived in the forest. His writings are autobiographical to a point, as is this one. For the adult reader, the lines between fantasy and reality blur beautifully creating a dream-like reality; for children, I am not the one to discern.
Appelfeld, Aharon. Jeffrey M. Green, trans., and Philippe Dumas, illus. Adam & Thomas. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2015. Print.
To read more on the author, see the New York Times, where there are extensive archival interviews and articles on his life and writings.