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Katarina

Katarina
by Kathryn Winter
Farrar Straus Giroux, $17. Ages 10 and up.

Katarina is a nine-year-old orphan living with her secular Aunt Lena in Slovakia when the Nazis invade. Her aunt devises ingenious schemes to avoid deportation, but Katarina ultimately is sent to a small village where she hides under the identity of a Christian orphan. When the villagers discover that Katarina is a Jew, the family she is living with sends her off to fend for herself.

Taught by her family’s Christian maid to believe in Catholicism, Katarina cannot understand why people consider her a Jew. Winter does an excellent job of conveying Katarina’s confusion and sorrow, and yet confidence that her life will return to the way it was before. Gradually, Katarina abandons the Catholic saints and accepts her Jewishness, but when the leaders of a Protestant orphanage where she is hiding ask her to teach them about Chanukah, Katarina realizes that she knows nothing about her religion and resolves to learn about it. The story is told primarily in Katarina’s voice but the creative use of different tools—letters from Katarina to her friend, the perspectives of villagers, and Katarina’s conversations with her stuffed monkey—make this story interesting for both children and adult readers.