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THE BLOOD YEARS

Page history last edited by RichiesPicks 7 months ago

30 October 2023 THE BLOOD YEARS by Elana K. Arnold, HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray, October 2023, 400p., ISBN: 978-0-06-299085-3

 

“Sometimes the only gift you can give a person is not to make them answer painful questions. Even nothing can be a gift sometimes.”

 

“Nazi Germany committed mass murder on an unprecedented scale. The Nazis and their allies and collaborators killed six million Jewish people. This systematic, state-sponsored genocide is now known as the Holocaust…The Nazi German regime systematically murdered Jewish people in gas chambers; mass shooting operations; and through deliberate privation, disease, and brutal treatment.”

– United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website

 

“But Mr. DeSantis has earned fewer plaudits for his [lack of] response to a series of neo-Nazi demonstrations that have taken place in his state over the last two years. The hateful displays have included masked men marching and chanting ‘Jews get the rope’ and banners with swastikas hung from highway overpasses.”

– NY Times 10/28/2023

 

“Give me love, give me love, give me peace on Earth”

– George Harrison (1973)

 

“Days later, Marcel brings home a pamphlet from the hospital. On the front is an illustration of a doctor looking through a microscope, and then a close-up of what he sees; it’s a terrible six-legged crab, meant to represent a ‘bug’ you can catch, but its face is human, and is clearly a caricature of a Jewish man. It has a long hook nose, a scraggly beard, a skullcap on its balding head, a hunched back. He’s rubbing his claws together and grinning as if he’s plotting something terrible.

Inside the pamphlet reads:

 

TUBERCULOSIS

SYPHILIS

CANCER

WE MUST DO AWAY WITH THE GREATEST OF SCOURGES…THE JEW

 

On the street, pasted-up propaganda posters, one of a Jewish man half in shadow, hiding behind a Soviet flag. Beneath, the inscription: BEHIND THE ENEMY POWERS: THE JEW.

 

And notices are hung:

EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY, ALL JEWS ARE ORDERED UNDER CURFEW. NO JEWS ON CITY STREETS 7PM-7AM. ANY JEW ON THE STREET DURING THESE HOURS MAY BE SHOT ON SIGHT.

 

Apartments left vacant by retreating Russians and fleeing Jewish families are occupied at once by the Romanian military or Nazi officers–neither seems better than the other.”

 

THE BLOOD YEARS is a harsh and unforgiving, yet beautifully and powerfully crafted coming-of-age story and historical novel set in Romania during WWII. It is the tale of Jewish teen Fredericke Teitler and her immediate family: her big sister Astra, her mother, and her maternal grandfather Opa. The other central figure is Marcel, the older man and physician who first becomes Astra’s lover and, eventually, her husband. 

 

With Fredericke and Astra’s unfaithful father having abandoned the family, the girls and their mom are living with Opa in his apartment. The story takes place in Czernowitz, Romania, (It is now known as Chernivtsi and, since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, has been part of independent Ukraine.) 

 

Based upon the true events endured by the author’s grandmother during the Soviet occupation of Romania (1940-1941) and the subsequent Nazi occupation (1941-1945), THE BLOOD YEARS offers graphic scenes, depth, and details that will permit teen readers to readily grasp the unspeakable horrors of what life (and, too often, death) was like for millions of European Jews during WWII. The tale brings alive–in living and deadly color–the grim statistics and textbook chronicling young people encounter in world history classes.

 

At the same time, THE BLOOD YEARS is also the turbulent story of one Jewish family living at the epicenter of the action.

 

Over my years of getting books into the hands of middle school kids, I have often pushed for particular, high-quality YA titles to be added to middle school collections. Ruta Sepetys’ BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY (2011) is a good example of a WWII-related title for which I have done this.

 

But that is not the case here. The research is impeccable and the writing is stellar, but what befalls Fredericke over the six years spanned by this story is more properly categorized as strictly YA. 

 

Will mankind ever approach an end to hatred and war? The current headlines that cause this sure-to-be-an-award-winner to be even more relevant, make me feel that much more pessimistic than ever about the future of the world my grandkids are inheriting. 

 

THE BLOOD YEARS is an essential purchase for high school collections. I encourage all high school librarians to buy, read, and booktalk this one. It’s a one-of-a-kind, and one not to be missed.

 

Richie Partington, MLIS

Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com

https://www.facebook.com/richiespicks/    

richiepartington@gmail.com  

 

 

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