Greater than Angels
by Carol Matas
Simon & Schuster $16. Ages 12 and up.
Greater than Angels, a story about an adolescent girl’s struggle to survive the Holocaust, is another successful contribution by Carol Matas to help children understand the Holocaust. When Anna Hirsch and her family are deported to Gurs, a French refugee camp, Anna rises to the challenge of inspiring her friends and family to remain optimistic—and even joyful. She uses her talent for singing and telling jokes to comfort both herself and other refugees, and bravely leads her friends out of dangerous situations.
Matas not only presents readers with a strong female protagonist but also demonstrates that some Gentiles were willing to risk their lives to aid Jews. For instance, Anna and many other children were brought from the camp to a small village that became known as a place where any Jew could find shelter. In this village Anna again arises as a resilient figure who helps her friend make and deliver false identity papers for Jews in hiding. Though Anna’s constant calmness and maturity seem rather unrealistic, her strength and willfulness are nevertheless inspiring.