Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Night Journey by Kathryn Lasky

The Night Journey by Kathryn Lasky is a tale of escape to freedom and friendship between the generations.

Rache never really knows what to say to her Great-Grandma Sashie. Her family encourages her to spend time with her elderly relative and to talk about school (boring!) or her friends and her daily activities -- but not to get Grandma Sashie talking about the past or the Old Country, because it upsets her. However, when Grandma Sashie starts in on the story of her family's escape from the pogroms of Tsarist Russia, Rache starts to see glimpses of the spunky, spirited young girl who devised a major part of the family's escape plan. Over the next few weeks, Rache sneaks in to Grandma Sashie's room at odd hours to hear of how the family left their hometown of Nicolayev underneath crates of chickens in a wagon, traveled across the countryside disguised as Purim players (and, at one point, a funeral procession), and even managed to trick the crooked border guard out of some of the gold they had hidden away in the Hamantaschen cookies! In listening to Grandma Sashie's stories, Rache feels deeply connected to her heritage for the first time in her life. But what will her family say when they learn that she has been talking to Grandma Sashie about the past?

I initially bought this book because it was illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, and the black-and-white illustrations certainly do add to the book. Grandma Sashie's story is fresh and compelling, though Rache's parts of the book felt a bit dated to me. Still, I'd recommend this book, particularly to readers who enjoy historical fiction involving immigrants.

(Reviewed from my personally purchased copy.)

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