Russo brings this autobiographical memoir to life through her distinctive folk illustration style and clear-eyed, sensitive writing. It’s unusual to use the format of the picture book to convey such difficult subject matter—surviving Nazi persecution of the Jews during World War II. Complete with copies of actual family photos on the end pages, Russo’s grandmother narrates the story, looking back to remember these childhood events for her inquiring granddaughter, using the charms on her bracelet to narrate each step on her journey to freedom. She doesn’t shy away from revealing the father’s death as a Resistance fighter either. Set in Italy, the Grandmother and her brother (as young children) escape Rome for a mountain village (in baskets full of pigs) and are “hidden” in plain sight living with a farm family. They survive the war and in the end immigrate to the U.S.
This is a book that requires follow up discussion due to the serious, sensitive subject matter. Locate the places on a map and explain the historical context, if children need additional background. Explore the tradition of charm bracelets and the significance of individual charms. What charms might the children choose to exemplify their own family stories?
More autobiographical picture books by Marisabina Russo:
ALWAYS REMEMBER ME. ISBN 978-0689869204
A VISIT TO OMA. ISBN 978-0688096236
By Sylvia M. Vardell