WHITE BIRD by R. J. Palacio. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2019. 220p. ISBN 978-0525645535 hc. $24.99 Gr. 5-10 JUV
In graphic novel format, Palacio frames a heart-wrenching Holocaust story, passed down from a World War II survivor to her grandson, told via video chat for a Humanities project at school. Sara Blum lived a fairy tale existence in 1930's France with parents who were college educated and gainfully employed. However, her town began to change in 1940, as Nazi guards began to appear in the village and Jewish families routinely disappeared. On a regular school day, guards rounded up the Jewish students at the school, but Sara saved herself by hiding in a deserted tower. Through the kindness of a classmate and his family, Sara was safely hidden in a barn for four long years. That classmate was Julien, who had crippled legs from polio, making him a Nazi target because of his imperfection. Shortly before the war ended, the Nazis guards caught up with Julien and shot him. Sara, who had been separated from her parents, became part of Julien's family, remaining close to them even after she found her father who had also been in hiding for years. In honor of her brave friend Julien, Sara passed on his name to her son and grandson. Revealing that she hadn't told her story to anyone else, she asked her grandson to keep her story and use it to fight injustice in the world. Following the suspenseful main story, readers will find ten additional pages of historical information about World War II and the role of the French Resistance.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI