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Black Radishes Kindle Edition

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Length: 242 pages Word Wise: Enabled Age Level: 9 - 12
Grade Level: 4 - 7

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5–8—After a somewhat slow beginning, this story of the plight of Jews in France from 1940 to 1942 develops into a dramatic tale of courage and determination. Gustave Becker, 11, lives in Paris, enjoying his time with his friend Marcel and his cousin Jean Paul. Then his parents suddenly announce that the family will be moving to Saint-Georges, which they believe to be safer, until they can get visas to go to America. A more even pace follows as Gustave deals with being in a new place and hiding the fact that he is Jewish. He is taunted by Phillipe, a bully who has a visceral hatred of Jews. Gustave develops a friendship with Nicole, a Catholic girl who turns out to be the daughter of Resistance fighters. The story becomes exciting when Gustave takes over her Resistance task when she is sick. The black radishes of the title refer to bribes his father tries to make with German border guards between the occupied and unoccupied zones. Meyer shines light on the bravery of Resistance fighters, and her story gradually crescendos into a gripping read comparable to Marilyn Sachs's classic A Pocket Full of Seeds (Doubleday, 1972), Carol Matas's Greater Than Angels (S & S, 1998), and Norma Fox Mazer's Good Night, Maman (Harcourt, 1999).—Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ
(c) Copyright 2011.  Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

The story begins in Paris in 1940, when discrimination against Jews in France has become more blatant and more dangerous for Gustave and his parents. Hiding their religious identity, they move to a small village, where they wait for their immigration visas. Soon the border of German-occupied France is established near their home. Like his father, Gustave begins to take uncommon risks, crossing over to find food and helping those who want to escape. Partly based on Meyer’s father’s experiences, the story derives its credibility from the vivid details of daily life and the depiction of changes slowly taking place within Gustave, who balances the occasional cruelty he endures with the friendship and trust he sometimes finds. The novel’s tension builds slowly, reaching its crescendo when Gustave masters his fears in the face of mortal danger. This fine first novel could be read in conjunction with The Good Liar (1999), which takes place in occupied France during WWII. Grades 4-7. --Carolyn Phelan

Product Details

  • File Size: 394 KB
  • Print Length: 242 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0375858229
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (November 9, 2010)
  • Publication Date: November 9, 2010
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003F3FJIW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #392,278 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Susan Lynn Meyer was born in Baltimore and now is a professor of English at Wellesley College. BLACK RADISHES, her first novel, was inspired by her father's childhood as a Jewish boy in Nazi-occupied France. It was a finalist for the Massachusetts Book Award, was named a Bank Street College of Education Best Book of the Year, and was awarded a Sydney Taylor silver medal, as well as other honors. Susan Lynn Meyer's NEW SHOES, a picture book about an African-American girl in the pre-Civil Rights South, illustrated by Eric Velasquez, will be published by Holiday House in 2014.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By AJL Reviews on February 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
With childlike enthusiasm, Gustave and his Boy Scout pals scour the streets of Paris in search of an elusive yellow feather, the last item needed to complete a scavenger hunt and win chocolate bars. These critical opening pages put the reader squarely in the mind of an eleven-year-old French Jewish boy, circa March 1940. We see a child filled with wonder and youthful vigor yet still aware of the ominous signposts cropping up at every turn: animals from the zoo being evacuated in case of bombings, shopkeepers being turned into soldiers, and the Eiffel Tower being cloaked in gray paint to camouflage it from enemy planes. Soon, the reality of war hits home, as Gustave and his family, fearing an imminent German invasion, flee to the French countryside in the hope of eventually finding passage to America. Using a map from his geography class, Gustave demarcates the Germans' rapid progression by painting all Nazi-occupied countries in red. His innocence fades in increments with every harsh revelation--hearing about Jews being forced into prison camps, experiencing hunger for the first time during an aborted attempt to flee to Spain, and receiving an anti-Semitic note from the class bully. Meyer deftly weaves historical details with plenty of adventure in this fast-paced story, allowing her readers to identify with the young hero as he helps the French Resistance, bribes Nazi guards with black radishes, and helps his aunt and cousins escape to freedom. Maps of France and Europe help to illustrate Gustave's journey. Drawing from stories told to her by family members, Meyer delivers a rich, well-written tale of lost innocence and newfound courage. An excellent novel to introduce the subjects of the Nazi occupation of France and the Holocaust to children in grades 6-8.
Allison Marks
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jewish Book World Magazine on January 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover
A map at the beginning of a historical fiction book promises an adventure, and this story will not disappoint children looking for a safe entry into the subject of the Holocaust. Written for a younger audience than the usual YA literature on this topic, the horrors of the Nazi occupation of France are touched upon, but always through the eyes of 10 year old Gustave, a Jewish boy fleeing the encroaching Germans with his family. The first chapter finds the family in Paris, and, by following the provided map along with the storyline, the reader learns about such things as how France was split and occupied in 1940, and where it was possible for a Jewish family to go to escape the Nazis while waiting for visas to America. Gustave's story is inspired by author Meyer's father's experiences of this time, and the research she did is very thorough--from the descriptions of the Menier Chocolate Factory on the demarcation line, to the way a child may have ridden a bicycle to help ferry messages for the Resistance. The family is likable and Gustave is appropriately childlike without being too innocent. The first-time author error of over explanation of detail can be overlooked because the plot moves quickly and the danger builds as the Nazis come to control even the part of France where it had been considered safe for the family. When Gustave learns that German soldiers love to eat black radishes, he comes up with a clever scheme to use them as a distraction when helping his father to smuggle Jewish relatives across the line. Children will enjoy this well told story about the day-to-day struggles of a French family and not even realize how much they are learning about geography and history at the same time. Grades 4 - 6. Lisa Silverman
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By D. Spark on January 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I loved this book. It is beautifully written, persuasively imagined, and completely compelling. I learned a lot from it on a practical level, and I liked it the way I like YA books that obviously also have an adult audience. I was glad for the author's note at the back telling about the sources for parts of the story, since throughout I couldn't help but wonder how the author knew the inside of the experience so very well. I also have to say that I'm glad that this is one of my son's first Holocaust books. The book was completely honest and straightforward, but in a way that he could digest at age 11. He could be presented with the facts and be aware of how horrible things were without being so overwhelmed by the nightmare that he couldn't take the truth in. I know I'm going to be recommending (and giving) this book to a lot of my Jewish friends with children in the upcoming year.

Here's my son's book report on the book: "This is a realistic novel about growing up in France in WW2. It has some sad parts, such as when Jean-Paul leaves his friends in Paris, and some terrifying scenes, like when Jean-Paul is travelling and the road he is on is attacked by German planes. This is a suspenseful and exciting read full of mystery and friendship."
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By More books on January 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Black Radishes is much more than a captivating, page-turner. It is a window into history through which adults and children alike will be entranced while learning a great deal about life in France during WWII. I am an adult and before reading this book I knew little about Vichy France or the French resistance movement during WWII. I also naively (and wrongly!) thought that it was Jews living in the occupied parts of Europe who had suffered; not those living in unoccupied areas. My lack of knowledge probably stems from the fact that I have always found it difficult to read books about WWII because of the violence and atrocities that occurred. In this book, however, the atrocities are not mentioned. Instead, the tension and anxiety of this period are conveyed through the eyes of young Gustav, the main character, as his family copes with the growing governmental restrictions placed upon them and as Gustav interacts with his friends. This book with its extraordinary attention to detail (see below) and its wonderful map opened my eyes to the enormous difficulties experienced by Jews living in Vichy France. The book continually surprised me, making me want to turn pages before I had completed them. Finally, the plot's culmination prompted me to google a picture of a black radish, a food I'm unfamiliar with, but one I will now never forget!

One final note. I had the privilege of attending a reading of this book by the author where I learned that every detail in the book - such as the color and design of a candy wrapper - was verified before inclusion in the story. This is historical fiction at its best!
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