Review of the Day: Someone Named Eva (Part Two)
Distinguishing between "nice" and "good" proves to be difficult for most adults I know. Imagine how much harder it would be for a child who misses her mother and has a loving enemy there to give her whatever she wants. If for no other reason, Wolf allows her book to explore a moral ambiguity here that will undoubtedly lead to interesting conversations on the playground. Eva’s new family consists of Nazis so they’re evil, right? Except, look at how much they love her and want her to love them back. Look at how they wrestle and play and laugh. Look too at what their jobs are and what they’re trying to destroy. Any book that makes a child ask what makes a person good or bad is worth giving them to read. "Someone Named Eva" makes sure to skip all easy answers.
My mind makes me pair books together. That’s just how it works. And at some point, mid-way through a read of "Someone Named Eva", I realized that this book should be paired alongside The Night of the Burning: Devorah’s Story by Linda Press Wulf. Both take place during WWII, and they deal with very different adoption journeys. You could create an entire reading unit out of these two books alone. It’s almost as if they were made for one another, so perfectly to they complement and contrast one another’s themes. Before you do that, however, you must read this book first. It’s Joan M. Wolf’s first book for children, and I want it to get a proper amount of attention. Books like this one don’t write themselves. For a good jolt of historical fiction to the brain, "Someone Named Eva" may well be one of the smartest books of the year.
Notes on the Cover: My co-worker doesn’t like it. She says it gives the wrong impression of the book. I might agree except that I find it rather striking. The harsh light hitting Milada on her right cheek seems part spotlight, part interrogator’s weapon. I appreciated that she wasn’t an uncommonly attractive child. As for the Nazi flag in the background, it doesn’t need to do any more than just hang there limply. For it to be any more prominent would be to throw the whole composition out of whack. The illustration is by a Mr. Eric Bowman who, as you can see from his website here, has done WWII images before. More to the point, he has a fine WWII kidlit cover background. Check out his version of Snow Treasure (another WWII book involving kids who aren’t Jewish) as well as Gail Carson Levine’s Two Princesses of Bamarre. Yes, I think I like this cover. The stark nature of it intrigues me more than anything else. And say what my co-worker will, she was the first person to look at the book, coo, and then read it cover to cover.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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