HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Night Crossing
Author: Karen Ackerman
Illustrator: Elizabeth Sayles
Publisher: Yearling, reprinted 1995
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 7-11
Rating: ***** Five stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Ackerman, Karen. The Night Crossing (published in 1994 by Alfred A Knopf Inc., 201 E. 50th St., New York City, NY 10016; republished in 1995 by Scholastic Inc., 555 Broadway, New York City, NY 10012). It is 1938, and Clara lives with her parents, Albert and Helen, and her older sister Marta, in Innsbruck, Austria. They are Jewish. Many years before, Clara’s grandmother had made a night crossing from Russia over the Carpathian Mountains into Austria to escape persecution. But now Adolph Hitler and his Nazis have taken over in Austria. They are taking Jews, such as the Jewish baker Mr. Duessel, away to prison camps, so Clara’s family must make a night crossing from Austria over the Alps into Switzerland to escape the Nazis. They will be using false papers and pretending to be Swiss citizens who had gone to Innsbruck to visit relatives but were now returning home.
However, they can take only so many things with them because they must look like casual travelers. Clara wants to take her dolls, Gittel and Lotte, which had made the earlier night crossing with Grandma and had then been to her by Grandma. Can they get away before the Nazis take them? Will they make it to Switzerland, or will they be caught? And what will happen to Gittel and Lotte? This story, now a First Bullseye Book, is an excellent fictional introduction to the Holocaust for young children. It has plenty of drama and suspense, and the danger is clearly portrayed, but there is no overly descriptive gore that can be scary. With its directness and simplicity, it is easy to digest by transitional readers. As one reviewer noted, this is a difficult story that must be told to children of this generation and future generations.