Review by Deborah Shatz
The Choice is a gripping coming of age story that takes place in Budapest and Poland during a dark period in history from 1944-47. It tells the story of a youth named Hendrik who is Jewish but living with his family as a Christian in Budapest to avoid the growing persecution against his own people.
Hendrik is just 13 years old and filled with typical teen age angst – questioning authority, feeling conflicting allegiances and yearning for adventure. Early in the story, he makes an impulsive choice that has horrific consequences for himself and his loved ones. He reveals that his name is in fact Jakob and that he is Jewish.
His reckless behaviour lands him in the Auschwitz death camp where he needs to grow up fast. As readers, we see things and meet people through Jakob’s eyes and experience his journey right along with him. For all his flaws, he is just a youth himself living in a world filled with hate and power. The people he meets and both the horrors and the kindnesses that he experiences help him draw from his past and grow as a person.
Author Kathy Clark perfectly paints a picture of the landscape and politics of eastern Europe at its ugliest and most hate filled time in history. She educates her reader about the geography, the war, and the toxic spread of Nazi Germany and anti Semitism into the surrounding regions. The black and white photos included in the body of the novel do more than illustrate the story, they punctuate the fact that it is based on real events and real places.
The Choice is the most recent title in an award-winning Holocaust Remembrance for Young Readers Series published by the Toronto based publishing company Second Story Press. This important series of books proves that you can talk to young people about serious issues. It resonates with children from all cultures and all walks of life.
The Choice is well written and tells a fast paced and intriguing story based on the real life experiences of the author’s father, a Holocaust survivor. It is Kathy Clark’s second book in the Holocaust Remembrance Series for Young Readers. The first, entitled Guardian Angel House is based on the true story of her aunt and mother – two sisters who were sheltered from the Nazis by a group of Catholic nuns during World War II.
The Choice is recommended reading for young readers and it is good reading for adults too. Clark does not sugar coat the heinous brutality and horrors of the concentration camp, but she also tells a poignant story of friendship, personal growth and survival. She opens the door for all types of important conversations about history, consequence of actions, seeking revenge, the significance of religion, culture and values, thinking for yourself and taking responsibility for your own choices.
The Choice (ISBN 9781927583654) is available in print and as an ebook, at book stores and on-line book vendors. For more information, contact secondstorypress.ca.