Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping: The Diary of Julie Weiss

One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping: The Diary of Julie Weiss

Barry Denenberg
Historical Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
Scholastic, 2000   ISBN: 978-0439095181

Julie has a very comfortable life living with her father, mother, and her brother Max in a very elegant apartment in Vienna, Austria. Julie's father is a much respected doctor who cares a great deal about his patients and he and Julie are very close, sharing a special love of books. Little does Julie know that her passion for books is going to help her through many trials in the not too distant future.

When the Austrian government gives in to pressure from Hitler in neighbouring Germany, there is much concern in Austria but people hope that their lives will not be too much affected by the arrival of German soldiers with their red, white, and black flags. For most Austrians their lives are not too affected by the German occupation of their country, but for the Jews the situation gets very dangerous and often terrifying. Julie has never thought much about her being a Jew until now. Suddenly she finds the streets of her beloved Vienna to be full of dangers. Jews are taken from their homes, beaten, given degrading jobs to do, and sometimes killed. No one is safe and Julie wonders how she and her family are going to survive this dreadful time.

The catastrophic loss of Julie's family and of everything that she cares about at the hands of the Nazis is painful to read about but the courage of Austria's Jews in the face of so many horrors gives the reader a real sense of what it must have been like to be a Jew in Europe in the late 1930's. The fact that we get to know her well through her diary entries and that we see how ordinary, funny, and real she is, only makes her suffering more powerful. Barry Denenberg helps his readers understand how so many people lost everything when Hitler decided that Europe was to be his for the taking.