No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War

No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War
by Anita Lobel
Greenwillow, $16. Ages 10 and up.

This riveting childhood autobiography by an award-winning author and illustrator (On Market Street) tells of her survival in Poland from the age of five, when she was sent off by her Jewish parents in the protection of their Catholic nanny with her two-year-old brother, whom they dressed as a girl to disguise his Jewishness. It is laced with fresh sensory impressions, first of the orderly life before the war, the smell of her father’s clean-shaven hug before he would leave for work in the morning, the taste of crispy fried bacon served surreptitiously in the kitchen by the nanny. Later, in the zig-zag of life on the run, we read of the ubiquitousness of lice; stifling the urge to speak while hiding in cramped quarters; a risky ride on a carousel. Her childlike prayer that the Virgin Mother would save her, the awkwardness of reuniting with her parents as an adolescent when the war was over, and her aversion to identifying herself as a Jew illuminate some of the collateral damage suffered by those who survived, especially as children. With a bright palette and great respect for her materials she has taken her unspeakably awful experience and crafted a beautiful story.