The Promise

illus. by Isabelle Cardinal. 32p. photos. Second Story. Apr. 2018. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781772600582.
Gr 2–5—Surviving the Shoah was sometimes a matter of quick wits or inexplicable good luck. Often, as in this story, it was a combination. Though picture books on this subject are difficult for young readers, this one, written by cousins who are the daughters of the protagonists, has the advantage of a happy ending. Honoring the promise she has made to their parents, Toby helps Rachel to survive in Auschwitz until the younger girl falls ill and they are separated. Rescuing Rachel from a barracks where sick inmates are housed before execution requires rapid planning, improvisation, and courage. Escaping her own execution in retaliation for violating the rules was a matter of a Nazi guard's unexpected humanity. Some aspects of the prose are questionably authentic. Cardinal has illustrated the book in grays and browns, digitally collaging photos onto her figures in ways that distort proportions and perspectives to disorienting, nightmarish effect. Readers will appreciate the photographs of the sisters as adults in the concluding pages.
VERDICT Consider for collections in need of brief historical fiction about the Holocaust.

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