My True Story are released under the Scholastic imprint, and are a series of books which are aimed at bringing history to life for children. Each book is fairly short, and deals with a key time/topic of history. The story is, generally, semi fictionalised, in that the historical facts are true, but the story is often written from the view point of a fictional character to give a diaristic, first hand impression to the children. The narrator of the story generally tends to be a child or younger adult.
The series is, in my opinion, quite patchy. I have tried the books with a number of readers, and quite a few of the children have found them dull. Every now and again you come across one which shines out, and for me, this is one of those.
What if they find us? is written by Kathy Clark, and is the true story of her relatives, two young Jewish girls growing up in Budapest during World War II. The story starts in 1944 when the Nazis, tired of the Hungarian government’s procrastination over the final solution regarding the Jews, invade, and begin to send Hungarian Jews to the death camps themselves.
The two girls, Susan and her younger sister Vera, are taken by a family friend and find refuge in a Roman Catholic convent outside the city. The nuns eventually take in over one hundred girls in this way, and the book is the story of Susan and Vera’s time there, and what happened to them after the liberation of Budapest by the Russians.
The story is written in the third person, but is, nevertheless, rather emotional and really engaging, so that you can imagine yourself in the sisters’ shoes. There is an epilogue showing photographs of the girls, and telling of their history after the war.
The book is rather girl focused, due to the characters and the fact that boys could not, understandably, be harboured at at convent, but there are enough details about the war, and what the children went through to make this appeal to boy readers too.
The book is not gratuitous or shocking, and it handles what happened during the time in a matter of fact and sensitive manner.
It would be an excellent teaching resource and would make a perfect guided reading book. I recommend it for children aged 8 and up.