It's horrifying and moving and enlightening and as heartbreaking and as gut wrenching as anything I've read about the holocaust ; yet it is hopeful . The horrors and the fears faced by the Jewish children in this novel were faced by the one and a half million children who were killed by the Nazis but the children in this story represent some of the 10,000 who were saved by the British on the Kindertransport , the train taking them from Germany to England to save them from the Nazis .
Heartbreaking does not adequately describe seeing these young children attempt to understand what is happening to Jews and why. How do you explain why their father's shop is destroyed or why he is taken away or why their home is ransacked in the middle of the night ? How do you explain why they are expelled from their school because they are Jews ? How do you explain why they must leave their home, their mother and fathers and get on a train to England?
This is the story of 11 year old Peter who loves his violin and his music and his younger sister Becca . It's about Peter's friend Eva who gets left behind. It's the story of their friends Hans and Stephen and the orphan boy Noah . Jana Zinser tells us that these children are fictional but we know they represent real lives . Their stories along with those of other characters are told simultaneously as the author moves among them simply by new paragraphs at times within the chapters . We move from England and back to Germany to Stephen's family hiding in the attic and Eva and her family in Bockenburg camp. Some of them children are safe from Hitler and alive but their lives are far from the happy ones they lived before. It seemed so chaotic at times but then you realize how it must have been that way .
For the next seven years we follow this circle of friends and their families , from Berlin to England to the camps back in Germany to Poland and back to Berlin . Their paths sometimes cross , some die, some live , all of them more courageous than can be described even though it is Peter and Noah who join the Resistance. I got more and more taken by these characters and the urge to know the fate of each and every one of them .
When I read about children of the holocaust, I am , of course reminded of Anne Frank and The Diary of a Young Girl and I think about Hana's Suitcase: A True Story. When I read about brave and good people trying to save their fellow human beings , I'm reminded of My Mother's Secret: A Novel Based on a True Holocaust Story. I am always reminded of The Street Sweeper because all of these books say to us "Don't let them forget." Zinser has done a beautiful job of doing just that . I highly recommend this book .