From Publishers Weekly
Mendel is only 12 when the czar's soldiers come to his shtetl with an order to conscript all Jewish boys for 25 years of service in the army. As his classmates are plucked off the streets or flee with their families, Mendel resolves on his own to run away, hoping to breach the dangerous Green Border into Hungary and from there find a way to America. He cuts off his earlocks but pledges to preserve his ties to Judaism and his father's teachings even as he plunges into the unknown. More atmospheric and suspenseful than Carol Matas's Sworn Enemies , which also examines the czarist conscription of Jewish children, Schur's novel suggests both the warmth and the narrowness of the shtetl (" 'Not Dovid . . . not Chaim . . . ' Reb Svinsky was taking the roll and at the same time fooling the Evil Eye. What bad spirit could do harm to children who were not there?"), and the vastness of the world Mendel enters. The author conveys the adventure and daring of Mendel's escape, maintaining an edge-of-the-seat tension until the very last words. Ages 9-12.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Grade 5-7-Mendel is 12 in 1852 when Czar Nicholas's soldiers come through his small Ukrainian town looking for Jewish conscripts. Knowing that his parents will risk their lives to protect him, he runs away. He is helped by a mysterious freedom fighter who pairs him with another fugitive-Dovid, the town bully. Their dangerous trip to the Hungarian border teaches Mendel what his devout father meant when he said "only the closed circle can keep us whole." The final chapter sees him on his way to a new life in New York, and the ending is open enough to allow for a sequel. The pacing of the text is excellent-there is sufficient time between periods of action to allow readers to assimilate the gravity of the boys' situation, and sufficient tension to hold interest. The setting is well realized, as is the danger. Characterization, however, is weak. Mendel's feelings on leaving his parents are described but do not seem truly felt, and though indications are given as to why Dovid is such an inhuman thug, he remains a two-dimensional figure. More depth is achieved in Karen Hesse's Letters from Rifka (Holt, 1992). However, this adventure story serves well to re-create its historical period.Ann Welton, Terminal Park Elementary School, Auburn, WA
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.