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37. Non-Fiction Monday: The Year of Goodbyes by Debbie Levy
In 1938, Hitler and his Nazi party were making the Jewish population of Germany the scapegoats for all of Germany's economic woes. Jewish men were losing their jobs and their businesses. Jewish children were  expelled from public schools. Jewish family assets and property were being seized. 

In January, 1938, Jutta Salzberg received a poesiealbum. These are blank books and apparently, were popular in Germany in the 1930s. Author, Debbie Levy explains that  they are comparable to autograph albums here in the U.S.

Amidst all this uncertainty and tension, Jutta and her friends attempted to carry on a childhood and to cultivate their friendships. Jutta's friends wrote, with their best penmanship, entries into Jutta's
Debbie Levy, juxtaposed entries from her mother's poesiealbum with her own free verse poems. These poems, which were created in consultation with her mother, provide both historical context and reflect her mother's growing anxiety as family friends begin to disappear and her father becomes increasingly desperate in his negotiations with the American Embassy to acquire visas for the family. But there's some humor as well, as Jutta reflects on how she had tempted her friend Ruth, daughter of the Rabbi, to eat food that was not Kosher or crushes on her handsome-as-a-movie-star French cousin, Guy.

Jutta turned 12 in September of 1938. She celebrated her birthday with her friends and received a diary, which she was afraid to write in lest she spoil the beauty of the white pages. In October, Jutta's mother took her children to Poland for a final visit with family, against the wishes of her husband, who feared that they might not be allowed to return.

Father says no.
But mother insists,
and that is that.

The final weeks of the Salzberg family's life in Hamburg was filled with increasing danger and almost unbearable tension. They learned upon their arrival in Paris that the Nazis came for them the morning after they boarded the train to leave Germany. That train ride was also fraught with terror as Mr. Salzberg was removed from the train by soldiers but managed to bribe his way back on by giving up the last of the family's cash.

A fifteen page Afterword summarizes the family's life in the United States and the fate of the Salberg family and friends. Sadly, many died at the hands of the Nazis. Happily, the author was able to track down the survivors and was even able to arrange a couple of reunions. 

I read an arc that I received at ALA Midwinter from the publisher. The reproductions were not the best quality and I hope and assume that the finished book will be cleaner. I learned from the author that the finished book will also contain pages of family photos, which she graciously shared with me via an email. Ms. Levy also let me know that extra material will be available shortly on her website, under "More."

This book is a must have for all school libraries and promises to be an important addition to the Holocaust curriculum. My mind is abuzz with all sorts of ideas for its inclusion in my own school's collection.


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