Booklist gives 'Night or Day' starred review

  • February 1, 2010
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Is It Night or Day?

Chapman, Fern Schumer (author).

Mar. 2010. 192p. Farrar, hardcover, $16.99 (9780374177447). Grades 6-10.
REVIEW. First published February 1, 2010 (Booklist).

Chapman based this spare historical novel on her mother’s experience of coming to America to escape Nazi persecution. At age 12, Edith is sent by her German Jewish parents to relatives on Chicago’s South Side in 1937. Oppressed by her aunt, who makes Edith work as a maid, and teased at school, where she starts off in first grade until she learns English, Edith suffers prejudice, including anti-Semitism in the girls’ locker room (“Dirty Jew!”); and after the U.S. declares war, other children view her as an “enemy alien” and call her “Dirty Kraut.” Even worse, she receives almost no word from her parents, until the final shocking news about the camps comes in 1945. In Edith’s bewildered, sad, angry voice, the words are eloquent and powerful. Did her parents want to get rid of her? Why does her older sister, also in Chicago, not call? Just as heartbreaking is an early letter from her mother: “I open the door and no one is there.” On a lighter note, baseball helps Edith, and her hero, Hank Greenberg, inspires her to take pride in her Jewish heritage. As with the best writing, the specifics about life as a young immigrant are universal, including the book’s title, which is drawn from a quote by a Sudanese immigrant “Lost Boy” who arrived in the U.S. in 2001.

— Hazel Rochman

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