Motivated, as he explains in his afterword, to create a personal remembrance of the 1.5 million Jewish children killed in the Holocaust, Fleischman pairs Freddie, a struggling, ex-GI ventriloquist, with Avron, the ghost of one such victim, in a short, provocative tale that leavens the tears with laughter. Freddie's career isn't exactly taking off as he wanders postwar Europeuntil he opens a closet and discovers smart-mouthed Avron, who offers to put a better line of patter into Freddie's mouth in exchange for help finding a certain murderous SS officer. Countering Freddie's understandable reluctance with both gags and gut-wrenching war stories, Avron moves in, and Freddie begins to display stunning vocal tricks to ever-larger audiences. Avron then cajoles his host into keeping kosher, and even undergoing an ersatz (or is it?) bar mitzvah. Ultimately, the search takes the two to America, where in a satisfying (if credulity-straining) climax, they find their quarry standing trial for a new crime, and Avron exacts a triumphant revenge for the old ones. The narrative voice here sounds adult, but the talented Fleischman is still both entertaining and thoughtful. Avron's wisecracking will counterbalance matter-of-fact accounts of Nazi cruelty for young readers, but it's likely to be older ones who will best appreciate the novel's eloquent "inner voice" of conscience, which takes on a definite symbolic cast, and the way in which Freddie's public and private identities shift as the story progresses. Peters, John
About the Author
Since his autobiography, The Abracadabra Kid: A Writer's Life, was published in 1996, Sid Fleischman has been stealing the spotlight with his exuberant brand of nonfiction. Sir Charlie: Chaplin, the Funniest Man in the World is Fleischman's fourth true tale, following the widely acclaimed The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West and the best-selling Escape! The Story of The Great Houdini.
Fleischman's books have been made into films, performed as plays, and translated into nineteen languages. The author was awarded the Newbery Medal for The Whipping Boy. His most recent novel is The Dream Stealer. Sid Fleischman lives in Santa Monica, California.
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