It was amazing to get a chance to share in Uri Shulevitz‘s childhood memories in his recent memoir. Chance: Escape from the Holocaust. In the book, the prolific author and artist shares his family’s journey, struggling to survive and stay together.
The family’s story is quite unique in that they were able to escape together to Russia, so the stages of their journey present much differently than other stories of survival during this era. This escape from the Nazis, however, still meant living at work camps, battling disease and hunger, and struggling to find loved ones. Through sections that set the scene in locales from Warsaw to Turkestan and Paris, we readers travel along with the refugees, experiencing their trials, heartbreaks, and small joys.
I especially recommend the memoir to kids with creative interests, visual art in particular. Shulevitz’s story includes anecdotes that illustrate his intense need to draw or paint as a child, as vital to his survival as food or shelter. His need to draw and the sacrifices his family made to keep his creative spirit alive act as catalysts for many of the book’s turning points.
The printed format is unique, with large dimensions that best feature the author’s many illustrations. The drawings bring the reader further into the mind of Uri the imaginative child, with sometimes nightmarish images of his interpretations of bombed out stairwells and looming officials who could separate him from his parents forever. Amazingly, also included is some artwork Shulevitz created during his journey.
The audience for this book is broad; the content is accessible for middle graders with little historical knowledge, but teens, then parents and other adult readers will get a much more thorough picture of the family’s struggle, just on the basis of having some historical and geographical knowledge.