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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
by Sigrid Heuck
Age Range: 9-11
‘ “If you really have magical powers, why don’t you turn the war into peace?” “That can’t be done,” Sami answered. ”There are too many people waging war. My magic doesn’t go that far”.’
In the final year of the war, a young girl is found amid the rubble of a German city. Afraid of the sirens and the bombs, she is alone and knows only that her first name is Rebecca. When the train taking her to an orphanage is stopped by an air raid, Rebecca escapes to a field of corn nearby where she meets a boy called Sami. Sami has built himself a hideout in a bomb crater where he has been living for some time. He tells Rebecca magical stories that are so vivid and real they transport her to far-off kingdoms where there is safety, warmth and plenty of food. Here in this make-believe world the war does not intrude and Sami is able to rescue Rebecca from her paralysing fear.
As well as the magical stories told to Rebecca by Sami there is the story of her life at the orphanage; the mysterious voice that can be heard coming out of Aunt Lilly’s room and her determination to protect Rebecca from ‘Mr Officious’, (the man in charge of all the orphanages in the region), and the bullying by the other girls who call her ‘Gypsy Girl’ because of her dark hair and complexion.
The reader is never told outright that Rebecca might be Jewish but there are strong hints throughout the book. At the heart of this story is the concept of peace, a reality that Rebecca cannot remember but that Sami is able to teach her through his stories and their friendship.