From School Library Journal
Grade 3-6–A story set in Belgium during World War II. Professor Solomon is intrigued by a beautiful painting, The Lady
, displayed in the window of the antique shop owned by Willys papa. Entering the store to make their purchase, the professor and his son, Max, meet Willy, and the two boys soon become inseparable companions. Sealing their bond with a photograph showing them in a friendship embrace, the youngsters promise to be friends forever. But the political climate in Antwerp becomes darker as the conquering Nazis approach and the Jewish professor and his son must escape. Before leaving, the painting is rolled up and brought back to the Christian shop owner, where Willy hides it in the basement. The effort is in vain, however, and the prized artwork is lost to the soldiers. Littlesugar and Low have created a moving story about stolen art during this period. Both Max and Willy eventually move to America, but are never reunited. A serendipitous discovery made by a museum curator results in The Lady
being returned to Maxs family. Told by Willys grandson, this important aspect of the Holocaust is a facet that deserves discussion. Lows mixed-media paintings in deep, dark hues have a textured, rugged look, contrasting a neighborhood at peace with the frightening atmosphere of one under wartime occupation.–Rita Soltan, Youth Services Consultant, West Bloomfield, MI
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Gr. 2-4. In a final author's note, Littlesugar discusses the Nazis' theft of art during World War II and the present efforts to return stolen artworks to their rightful Jewish owners. Unfortunately, Littlesugar's decision to tell the story of the theft and recovery of one special painting through the framework of the idyllic friendship of two Belgian boys--Max, who is Jewish, and Willy, who is a gentile--feels contrived. When the Nazis come and Max's family must flee, they leave a precious painting with Willy's family. Willy hides it, but the Nazis take it. After the war it is found, and 60 years later, with the help of a photo and note that Willy had pasted on its back, the painting is finally returned to Max's son in America. Despite the story's awkwardness, Low's beautiful, double-page paintings bring close the impact of art, at the same time showing the daily details of the kids' friendship in the historic city, the Nazi invasion, and, at last, the heartbreaking reunion. Hazel RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved