By: Susan Violante
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Publication Date: April 2011
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: July 12, 2011
This truly incredible Young Adult novel begins with a very kind introduction for the audience. A woman by the name of Susanna heads into her childhood home. Susanna briefly describes her relationship with her parents, especially her father, Nino. Not a bad father at all; Nino was simply an enigma until this day, when he hands his Susanna some tapes. The tapes are actually a gift, in a way, that speak of his experiences while growing up in the tumultuous 1940’s in his home of Tripoli. Susanna will know a great deal about her father when the tapes are all played…
Soon, the reader walks beside Susanna as the tape begins to play and we head back into a time of war. Here, in a small Italian colony, is where Nino lives with his family. He is a ten-year-old who has had a quiet existence as a child - going to school, playing with his friends, loving his younger sister - and, quite simply, enjoying his life.
One day, he sees his mother’s face growing a bit odd-looking, as the buzz of the radio introduces the words of Mussolini into their peaceful household. What began with a good meal of Minestrone ends with a declaration of war, and French planes begin flying overhead. The small town, Nino’s small school - everything becomes a place of complete and utter fear. Peace is gone as the bombs begin to drop, as the sirens begin to sound, and food rationing becomes a daily reality.
As Nino’s father is called to the frontlines, Nino, his mother, and sister see their neighbors being given yellow patches in the shape of the Star of David to wear at all times, when the Nazi soldiers come to town. They also receive a new family member, as she is hidden in Nino’s household to escape the Germans who have taken her loved ones away. Nino turns from a young boy into the man of the house, as he shines soldiers’ boots for crackers in order to feed his mother and sister.
As events unfold, the family must experience a frightening trek across the land to meet up with their father and build a new home. However, as with anything during WWII, Nino’s experiences have only just begun.
The author has done a fantastic job with this book. Although the book would benefit from a good editor‘s eye, that takes nothing away from the truly extraordinary story. Not only are all parts of the story so powerfully written that you can feel the author’s personal attachment to her words; but, every description is so in-depth that readers will find themselves seeing every inch of the Arabian one-story, white concrete villas that made up Nino’s community. And they will hear the horrific drone of the airplanes as they flew across the sky, dropping bombs on the heads of all the frightened families.
This is one book that you will not want to miss. Young adults will be given a very good look into the lives of children during WWII. They will also see the pride, loyalty, and determination it took to keep a family together while their world was falling apart.
Quill Says: A powerful beginning to what will, most definitely, become a much-beloved series.