Synopses & Reviews
A young woman must come to terms with her grandfather's past in Nazi Germany in this Sydney Taylor Honor Book. Johanna's grandfather founded the largest clothing store in town and built it up with his own handsat least that's the family legend. But when Johanna travels to Israel on a class project, she finds out that the family of Meta Levin originally owned the store. She learns that her grandfather legally acquired the company during the Nazi regime according to the anti-Semitic laws of the Third Reich. Joanna is worried: her familys wealth is obviously founded on injustice. Should she keep silent, or can she wake the sleeping dogs? What follows her discovery is an eye-opening fight and marks Johanna's entrance into adulthood as she is left with many questions and her own life to sort out.
"Like the German film The Nasty Girl, this tough-minded novel, also from Germany, centers on a contemporary young heroine's attempt to scrape away the comfortable local fictions that obscure a generation's behavior during the Third Reich. Eighteen-year-old Johanna has grown up believing that her grandfather deserves the credit for the prosperity of the family business, a prestigious department store, and her parents assume that she herself will run it someday. But a school trip to Israel to meet the eight Jewish women who attended Johanna's school in 1933 teaches her a different story. One of the women informs her that the store had belonged to two Jewish families, one of them her own, and that Johanna's grandfather had stolen it from them in the late '30s. Pressler (Halinka), also known for editing the definitive edition of Anne Frank's diary with Otto Frank, probes the issues here from many angles. She observes scenes closely but unobtrusively, conveying sensory images in crystalline prose, and a variety of story lines suggest the density of Johanna's life (a boyfriend, ruptures in the family, allusions to an Israeli youth). The complex narrative structure, in which chronology takes a back seat to moment-to-moment relevance, not only allows for strategic revelation of different pivotal scenes but also reflects Johanna's thinking as she tries to process the facts she uncovers. Pressler demands a certain sophistication from the audience; her incisive writing challenges readers to rise to meet her. Ages 12-up." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Pressler demands a certain sophistication from the audience; her incisive writing challenges readers to rise to meet her." --Publishers Weekly
* "Books for young people have rarely directly addressed the moral issues surrounding the legacy of historical sins; this thoughtful and provocative volume will elicit plenty of discussion about American historical heritage as well as European, and it could therefore be an interesting partner to Mildred Taylor's Logan family saga." --Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review
"There are shelves of Holocaust books about victims, perpetrators, rescuers, and bystanders; but what about those who profited from the genocide? What happened to the property the Jews left behind? . . . The history and the issues will spark discussion." --Booklist
When Johanna discovers that her grandfather's company--and her family's wealth--was founded on injustice due to the anti-Semitic laws of the Third Reich during the Nazi regime, she must make a life-altering decision.
About the Author
Mirijam Pressler is a renowned author of children's and young adult literature in Germany. Her novel When Happiness Comes, You Have to Offer It a Chair was awarded the German Youth Literature Prize. Ms. Pressler also received the German Book Award 2004 for her life's literary work. She lives near Munich.