PW: 'Well worth reading'

  • February 22, 2010
  • No Comments

Is It Night or Day? Fern Schumer Chapman. Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, $16.99 (192p) ISBN 978-0-374-17744-7

Chapman, who wrote about her family’s Holocaust ordeal in the adult book Motherland: Beyond the Holocaust, assumes the voice of her mother, Edith, who at age 12 is sent by her Jewish parents from increasingly anti-Semitic Germany to live in America with relatives. Edith’s plaintive narration describes her father’s mounting fear of the Nazis (“suddenly, we were filth, Jews polluting the village,”) and her mother’s increasing detachment. The story of Edith’s ocean voyage to America provides some light moments; without her parents around, Edith’s fears and anxiety are always evident, but her interactions with other young Jewish emigrants are touchingly childlike, such as when they play hide-and-seek onboard. In Chicago, Edith is met by a disdainful aunt who treats her like a servant and classmates who keep their distance. Though her story reads more like a memoir than a novel, Chapman captures a plucky determination in Edith that readers will find endearing. There is no Cinderella ending for Edith, but the hope she finds in Jewish ballplayer Hank Greenberg and the honesty in her story make this historical fiction well worth reading. Ages 10–up. (Mar.)

Leave a Comment