Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

My Canary Yellow Star

My Canary Yellow Star

Eva Wiseman
Historical Fiction
For ages 12 and up
Tundra, 2001   ISBN: 978-0887765339

On March 19, 1944 the Germans invade Hungary and Marta's life changes forever. Marta's school for Jewish girls is closed and her father gets a notification that he has to work as a laborer, digging ditches in Yugoslavia. Needing to bring money in, Marta and her mother both get jobs. Marta works in a dressmaker's shop for a lady who is sympathetic and who does her best to help Marta. Unfortunately there are many other people in Budapest who take this opportunity to verbally and physically abuse the Jews living in the city.

With each passing day new laws are passed which deprive the Jews of more of their rights. Then the day comes when all Jews are required to sew a yellow fabric star on their clothes. Now Marta and her friends and family cannot hide who they are and they are singled out for persecution.

Matters only get worse when all the Jews in Budapest are told that they can only live in yellow-star houses. Marta and her mother, brother, and grandmother are forced to leave their lovely home to live in a tiny apartment with Marta's aunt and her family. Food becomes scarce and Marta feels hungry all the time. She does her best to keep up her spirits, and her friend Peter helps with this, but there are times when despair lies very close to the surface.

Then a Swedish diplomat starts to issue special papers to as many Jews as he can; Jews who have some connection to Sweden, no matter how tenuous the association is, are given a reprieve – for a while.

In this often heartbreaking story the author describes what it was like to live in Hungary during the last few years of World War II. What makes this account particularly moving is that we learn that it was often Hungarians who abused the Jews who had lived among them for years. The story of the Swedish diplomat, Raoul Wallenberg, is true and this brave man saved the lives of thousands of Jews, at great risk to himself.

With careful attention to detail Eva Wiseman captures the horror of life in wartime Hungary. With her book she has created a fitting tribute to everyone who fought for humanity and justice, and to Raoul Wallenberg in particular.