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Memories of Babi Hardcover – May 27, 2008

5.0 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 4–7—It takes an eloquent weaver of words to entice readers into the world of rural, pre-World War II Ukraine, and Siegal does just that in these nine exquisite tales. Youngsters visit Babi's farm and the town of Komjaty, seeing it through the eyes of young Aranka, who spent summers there with her grandmother. The beauty of the countryside comes through, but so does the anti-Semitism, the superstitions, and the poverty. The stories and the lessons learned resonate as the character and readers discover life in the Carpathian Mountains together. The love between grandmother and granddaughter especially shines through as Siegal retells the lessons that she asserts have become even more meaningful to her in the intervening years.—Ernie Bond, Salisbury University, MD
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Review

“The love between grandmother and granddaughter especially shines through.” —School Library Journal

"Fans of the Little House Books will like Siegal's warm descriptions of work, home, and faith; they will also appreciate the picture of Siegal's loving grandmother-mentor." —Booklist
 
"In a testament to her childhood summertime visits with her Ukrainian grandmother in the pre-World War II Carpathian Mountains, Seigal weaves several stories of country village life. . . . The concepts that yesterday's good, honorable life contains meaning for today remains paramount." —Kirkus Reviews
 
“Most notable is the author’s ability to project characters vividly, to write simply without condescension, and to interweave themes without preaching.” —Horn Book
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 11 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 6
  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); 1ST edition (May 27, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374399786
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374399788
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,247,367 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of my favorite children's novels is Upon the Head of the Goat: A Childhood in Hungary by Aranka Siegal; it chronicles Siegal's real life experience during the Holocaust, leading up to her captivity in a concentration camp. In the sequel, Grace in the Wilderness: After the Liberation, Siegal explains her life post-World War II, integrating back into everyday life after experiencing the horrors of the Holocaust. While it can easily be read as a stand alone, Memories of Babi, is best appreciated as a prequel to Siegal's two original novels as they bring life and history to the characters that is not afforded in the length of this book of stories.

Each chapter in Memories of Babi contains a story that reads like a fable with a lesson main character Piri (Siegal with a different name) learns from life with her grandmother, Babi, on Babi's farm. Piri learns lessons in hard work, compassion, honesty, and tradition which all help her maintain her sense of identity and compassion once faced with the atrocities of the Holocaust.

My favorite story was titled The Beggar Woman, in which Piri and Babi take care of Bracha, a beggar woman in town, when nobody else would help her. Babi grew up with Bracha and explains to Piri that she befriended Bracha as a child because others were cruel to her. When Piri asks whether or not the other children would play with Babi after she befriended Bracha, Babi replies, "Some did and some did not, but it didn't bother me. The ones that were so mean to her were not worth bothering about. Why would I want such mean friends?" I found this to be great foreshadowing for Piri's experience with the Holocaust.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you don't already know, Aranka Siegal is a Holocaust survivor. This book is written about the time before she was taken to the concentration camps. Knowing this adds a whole new dimension to the book.

Aranka Siegal spent time during the summer (and sometimes other parts of the year) with Babi, her grandmother, who lived in Komjaty, a Ukrainian village. It is clear from these stories that her grandmother was an inspiration to her. The stories are written for younger readers—the book is a little over 100 pages—so it is an easy read. I like how she writes the way she speaks: nothing fancy, simply communicating her story. I enjoyed being taken into a world much different from my own. Indeed, the world of Babi is even different from the world Aranka knew growing up, as she lived in the city with her parents and siblings.

She mentioned in her talk that her grandmother was an inspiration for her. Above all, Babi had unwavering faith no matter what happened in life. Though Aranka was not present when her grandmother was taken by the Nazis (this part of the story is not recounted in this book), she is confident that Babi kept her faith all the way to the end.

That strength is foreshadowed in this book. Babi does everything by hand. Each morning when Aranka (Piri, in this book) would awaken, a fire would already be roaring, breakfast would usually be prepared, and bread or other food would be in the works for later. Babi was also the problem solver of the area. For instance, when Piri’s friend’s grandmother cuts her hair terribly, Babi evens out the haircut, giving the crying girl confidence and turning a negative into a positive.
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Format: Hardcover
While her Newbery Honor Book, Upon the Head of the Goat, tells the story of her childhood in Hungary during World War II and the sequel, Grace in the Wilderness, recounts her experiences after liberation, some 20 years later, Aranka Siegal revisits her childhood before the war. Focusing on the time she spent with her beloved grandmother, Babi, who lived alone on a small farm just across the Hungarian border in Ukraine, Siegal's nine inter-related stories impart simple yet valuable lessons of faith, honesty, hard work, compassion, and courage. She paints a nostalgic but realistic picture of country life - gathering mushrooms, spinning thread, baking challah, and plucking chickens - but also exposes the tensions between Christians and Jews and the undercurrents of anti-Semitism, revealing Babi's fate at the hands of the Nazis at the end of the final story. The appended recipes add charm to this beautifully written, delightful collection. Ages 10 - 12. Rachel Kamin
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Format: Hardcover
Endearing memories of a little Hungarian girl's summertime visits to her grandmother's pre-W.W.II Ukrainian country home incorporate Jewish values of kindness, generosity, honesty, help for the less fortunate, lessons of mitzvot, and special moments filled with a little adventure, amusing escapades, and lots of love. Siegel's eight short episodic stories reflect her own childhood experiences of country life in a Jewish village where she learned farming skills, chicken plucking, mushroom hunting, superstitious-based activities, cooking and the communal annual Lekvar (prune spread) making. The certainty of death through a loved-one's annual remembrance is addressed in a final piece entitled "Yahrzeit", adding a second dimension to life to a wondering child's knowledge. Old world dialogue and descriptive passages provide insight into yesterday's good honorable ways with themes transcending to a modern, meaningful Jewish life. RITA SOLTAN - WEST BLOOMFIELD, MI
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