Jewish Values: Bear Makers, The

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170 p.
In 1947 Hungary, eleven-year-old Kata tries to make sense of the reactions of her family to the Communist take-over of their country. It is a time of shortages, suspicion, spying, and surveillance, with party loyalty trumping every other affiliation. Her father is deeply depressed but her mother remains strong, secretly sewing stuffed Teddy bears to sell on the black market. The narrative is told from an eleven-year-old’s perspective and as the plot develops, the character of Kata does, too. At first bewildered by the atmosphere of fear and political coercion that surrounds her at home and at school, she comes to understand, to be more tolerant of her parents and friends, and to become quite adept at avoiding the eye of Big Brother. Kata’s family is Jewish and, while her experiences during the Holocaust are portrayed in flashbacks (printed in italics), there is very little other Jewish content to this story of an assimilated Hungarian family. The writing is expert, with superb characterization, a masterful control of plot, and a setting not often found in children’s books.
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