Sunday, March 20, 2011

I Have Lived a Thousand Years

By Livia Bitton-Jackson

This book begins with a Foreward, 50 years after the events portrayed. Livia Bitton-Jackson is returning to Seeshaupt, a Bavarian town in Germany, to tell her story.

The story: Livia, called Elli, is a clumsy 12 year old girl, she does not think she is pretty, and she is gangly. Her mother is unsentimental- and while Livia as a child thinks this is because her mother doesn't love her, it's really because she wants Elli to be self-sufficient. Her brother, Bubi, is handsome and smart and goes off to study in a Jewish seminary.

Elli's father tells her not to take the things that Hitler says on the radio seriously- he insists it's not literal, but the situation becomes so tense that he wants to travel to Budapest to bring Bubi home. Bubi comes home of his own accord, however- luckily, because other people who had gone to Budapest did not return.

On March 19th, 1944, Hitler's army took Budapest- but now, this means that everyone is chanting "Heil Hitler" and yelling at Elli- taunting, "Hey, Jew Girl!"-- on the 27th of March, all Jews must register with the town hall. Elli is forced to give up her bicycle. The town crier, whose announcements formerly amused her, now fill her with dread, because they announce one more thing Jews must do, or one more thing they are not allowed to do. Elli becomes depressed, but still receives honors in school.

Eventually, all of the Jews in her town are rounded up and sent to the ghetto in a town 14 miles away and her father was sent, along with other men, to Komaron, a forced labor camp, and Elli, her mother, and brother were sent to Auschwitz. They go back and forth between Auschwitz and other labor camps, but the arrival of allied soldiers is imminent. That does not mean that they will not still be tortured by the nazis, however, and Bubi is shot in the head. He survives, but only with a lot of care. Ultimately, in their immediate family, Elli's father is the only one who dies- but the experience is devastating and harrowing.

I think that this book gives added perspective to the holocaust- that it happened to many different people, and in many different ways. The holocaust biography is a very popular subject, but this book is very well-written and literate, as well as honest. I think it is good for older tweens- from 12 up.

Publisher's Weekly gave this book a starred review.

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