I know there is so much historical fiction about World War II, but I just have to recommend this book.
Today I took the kids to Barnes and Noble and picked this up off the "Summer Reading" table. I started reading it while walking through the mall and came home and summarily finished it in just a couple hours.
The story starts in Warsaw right before the Nazi invasion and is told by a young orphan who has no memory of his parents. He's not a Jew, but ends up in the Ghetto with the other Jews and spends his time there feeding one family and a group of orphans by smuggling food. This is an amazing story of hope...hope in things that have never been seen...oranges, angels, heaven...
The story made me smile through tears so many times as this naive child experienced persecution with a smiling face. This paragraph was particularly moving to me... a Jewish family invited him to participate with their family in Hanukkah and the word "happy" was spoken; the first time he had heard it...
"Tata, what is happy?"
He looked at me and at the ceiling and back to me. "Did you ever taste an orange?" he said.
"No," I said, "but I heard of them. Are they real?"
"Never mind." He stared at me some more. "Did you ever--" He stopped and shook his head.
After more staring, he said, "Were you ever cold, and then you were warm?"
I thought of sleeping with the boys under the braided rug: cold, then warm. "Yes!" I blurted. "Was that happy?"
He smiled. "That was happy."