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Serendipity's Footsteps Hardcover – November 10, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up—Can a pair of shoes have a profound effect on a person's life? For Dayla, Ray, and Pinny, a specific pair of shoes connects them through time and place over decades and continents. One is the only member of her family to survive the atrocities of Nazi Germany and begin life anew in the United States. One is a troubled orphan who has been in and out of foster care and has decided to run away and start over in New York. And lastly, one is a quirky idealist with mild Down syndrome who believes that New York holds the answer she has been seeking. With this novel, Nelson weaves an original and unique story line using shoes as the focal point that drives the plot. The story unfolds and evolves through the alternating points of view of Dayla, Pinny, and Ray as they overcome tragedy and despair in their lives. Nelson addresses complex themes such racism, morality, discrimination, and self-esteem, all with exceptional tact and sensitivity. This uplifting story depicts the best and worst in humanity and the true strength of the human spirit. VERDICT An inspiring additional purchase for mature readers.—Donna Rosenblum, Floral Park Memorial High School, NY
A Sydney Taylor Honor Book for Teen Readers
A CCBC Choice for Young Adult Fiction
"Part realistic fiction, part fairy tale, and part historical fiction, this novel is all heart."-Booklist
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We begin in Germany in 1938 on the night of Kristallnacht (Crystal Night, more commonly referred to as "The Night of Broken Glass") as the Nazi SS moves through a primarily Jewish neighborhood destroying Jewish businesses and arresting families for no other reason than because of their religion. Here we meet Dalya Amschel, a 15-year-old just learning her father's trade of making shoes. She has just crafted the pale pink shoes mentioned above (to be her wedding shoes hopefully) when the Nazis show up and arrest her father and destroy his shop. Dalya manages to hide her mother's rings and a Hebrew prayer in the hidden compartment of one of the heels of her beloved shoes. The family is then taken to a concentration camp where they will slowly perish one by one. Dalya barely manages to escape two years later and is given a visa to the US where she is taken in by a rich family.
Also woven into this novel are the stories of two orphans from Jaynis, Texas. Ray is a typical wild child, rebelling in any way she can against the system, all the while dreaming of New York and attending Julliard. Pinny (short for Chopine, a type of shoe) is a 21-year-old with Down Syndrome and she is highly functioning. Pinny was abandoned by her mother at a young age at a train station in New York. She is obsessed with shoes and carries a camera to take pictures of any shoes that strike her fancy. She also carries a newspaper article about a tree in New York called the Tree of Lost Soles where she believes if she gets her mother's "magic shoes" back that her mother will return to her and everything will be okay again.
This is the story of the journey of the pale pink shoes and how it finally brings all three characters together. I found the story to be gripping and very well written. The author clearly did a lot of research (there are notes at the end of the book) and came across as very authoritative on all her subject matters. I absolutely loved the character of Pinny because she makes a lot of profound observations and has keen insight into situations. I very much enjoyed this book and had trouble putting it down. I highly recommend this book.
p.s. The author's notes at back of the book is also intriguing.
Dalya's father is a shoemaker in Berlin as World War II begins, and as the family loses its business and is forced into a concentration camp, Dalya is able to hide a beautiful pink pair of shoes in her home, hoping to one day return and retrieve them.
Ray is an orphan who is fleeing to New York and is accompanied by Pinny, a girl with Down Syndrome and a permanently happy personality. Her own interest in shoes is the common thread she and Dalya share and how the stories of these three girls intersect.
I loved Dalya's story and was anxious to get back to the chapters that she narrated. I love World War II literature, so this was something I was excited about. I felt less interested and able to connect with Ray and Pinny and found myself skimming the sections that focused on them. Add in a few other characters who narrate chapters, and my disinterest grew.
This is a solid middle school book. The other reviewers who have read this book rave about it more than I do. I loved portions of it, but felt meh about much of it. I'm interested to hear what other readers think of this book, and realize that middle school readers aren't as critical as adults readers.