Jewish Values: Orphan Rescue, The

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124 p.
The setting is Sosnowiec, Poland in the 1930’s during the Great Depression. Twelve year old Miriam and her seven year old brother, David, are orphans who are cared for by their grandparents, who, like many people, have trouble putting food on the table. When their situation becomes desperate, Miriam is forced to quit school to take a job she hates in a smelly kosher butcher shop and, worse yet, David is sent to an orphanage. On the surface, the Jewish orphanage is benign but underneath, its director cruelly sells some of the children to an unscrupulous factory owner who uses them as forced labor doing dangerous, even lethal, work. The tightly constructed plot concerns Miriam’s attempts, always adventurous and eventually successful, to rescue David and restore him to his family. In pacing, characterization, and the realization of a moving theme, The Orphan Rescue is a sterling example of how meaningful subjects may be distilled into stories that appeal to middle grade children, arousing their interest, their empathy, and their social consciousness. In an afterword, the author draws an analogy between the story and the exploitation of many children in the world today, who are forced by poverty into work for which they are far too young. This message never impinges upon the story but it adds contemporary resonance. The author is best known for her non-fiction, such as the Sydney Taylor honor book, Bobbie Rosenfeld, the Olympian Who Could Do Anything (Second Story, 2004) and her more recent Dynamic Women Dancers (Second Story, 2009) among others, but in this work of fiction, she shows a talent for accessible storytelling that is reminiscent of her earlier work of historical fiction, Written On the Wind (Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2001). Both novels are based on Dublin’s family and out of true events and specific historic periods comes wider and more timeless meaning.
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