Review Blog

Feb 27 2009

The diary of Laura's twin by Kathy Kacer

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2009. ISBN 9781741756678
(Age: 11-14) Although many books have highlighted the trauma of the Warsaw Ghetto during the Holocaust, the 1941 diary entries of Sara Gittler balance the expectations of present day twelve year old Laura Wyman. Laura complains that collecting $1000 door to door for the African Well Fund should show her commitment to her impending Bat Mitzvah. Plagued by friends quoting Beatles' lyrics, a steady stream of school assignments, and ninth grader bullies, Laura is not impressed when her Rabbi suggests that she contact the elderly Mrs Mendelcorn. After all, she has already read 'The Diary of Anne Frank' and feels she already knows a lot about the Holocaust.
Young Sara's diary entries are immediate, descriptive and compelling. She mourns her loss of school, books, medicine, personal freedom and fresh food. The distinction between the lives of these two young girls is exemplified in the story of Sara's friend Deena, who treasures the few coloured pencils and scraps of paper that she has been able keep. David, Sara's fourteen year old brother is more aware of the outside world and his involvement in underground activities adds a sense of hope in this desperate life. He scrounges bread, risking his own life.
By late 1942, the diary includes disturbing examples of starvation and brutality. In parallel, Laura's ordered world is provoked by vandals desecrating a local cemetery. Laura learns the power of honesty and the strength of standing up for personal beliefs.
The black and white photos interspersed throughout add a sense of realism to this disturbing tale. The inclusion of real individuals (Janusz Korczak, the teacher who supplied hope to orphans, teenage Mordechai Anielewicz and other Resistance fighters), adds power to narrative. But most compelling is the realisation that war affects more than soldiers.
It would be interesting to compare this to Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy. I found The Diary of Laura's twin more believable than the approach in Yolen's The Devil's Arithmetic and more accessible to adolescents (but less academic) than John Boyne's Boy in Striped Pajamas.
Pauline Crawford

Archived Blog Entries