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Schmidt, Gary. Mara's stories; glimmers in the darkness.

SCHMIDT, Gary. Mara's stories; glimmers in the darkness. Macmillan, Square Fish. 154p. c2001. 978-0-312-37388-7. $6.99. J S A *

No one opens a book about the Holocaust and expects to feel uplifted. Yet Gary Schmidt's remarkable stories, rich in tradition and history, are able to do just that. Mara's Stories is a startling reminder of the children condemned to concentration camps, children who were housed with their mothers in the barracks. Given the situation, it makes perfect sense that something had to be done to entertain these children who were, after all, still children despite their circumstances. Mara, a woman without children of her own, is the storyteller for this particular barrack in this particular death camp, although one is certain that many more "Maras" existed throughout Eastern Europe. Mara tells some tales replete with the history of the Jewish people, such as ones based on the life of the Baal Shem Toy, founder of the Hasidic movement. Others depict the stark reality of life for European Jews leading up to their internment. Tales of cemetery desecration, families in hiding, rabbis being persecuted--yet often prevailing or escaping in miraculous ways--were based on the personal accounts-turned-folklore of those who were interred. The stories are sometimes funny, often ironic, and always full of hope. As each group of stories unfolds, Schmidt reveals the storyteller herself. The reader comes to understand that storytelling was as necessary for Mara as it was for her listeners.

Schmidt incorporates a wealth of research into every story. He interviewed Holocaust survivors and drew on religious scholars and folklore. Thankfully he provides notes on each story at the end of his book. The notes are so compelling the reader is apt to read the stories again and again. We have been urged to "never forget." Mara's Stories make that possible. I recommend the book to all readers. Lorie Paldino, English Teacher (retired), Overland Pork, KS

J--Recommended for junior high school students. The contents are of particular interest to young adolescents and their teachers.

S--Recommended for senior high school students

A--Recommended for advanced students and adults. This code will help librarians and teachers working in high schools where there are honors and advanced placement students. This also will help extend KLIATT's usefulness in public libraries.

*--The asterisk highlights exceptional books.

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Author:Paldino, Lorie
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jul 1, 2008
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