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The Night War

Read by Gilli Messer
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From the two-time Newbery Honor-winning author of The War That Saved My Life and Fighting Words comes a middle grade novel set at the border between freedom and fear in World War II France, at the Chateau de Chenonceau, where a Jewish girl who has lost everything but her life must decide whether to risk even that to bring others to freedom.

“We don’t choose how we feel, but we choose how we act.”

It’s 1942. German Nazis occupy much of France. And twelve-year-old Miriam, who is Jewish, is not safe. With help and quick thinking, Miri is saved from the roundup that takes her entire Jewish neighborhood. She escapes Paris, landing in a small French village, where the spires of the famous Chateau de Chenonceau rise high into the sky, its bridge across the River Cher like a promise, a fairy tale. 

But Miri’s life is no fairy tale. Her parents are gone—maybe alive, maybe not. Taken in at the boarding school near the chateau, pretending to be Catholic to escape Nazi capture, Miri is called upon one night to undertake a deadly task, one that spans the castle grounds, its bridge, and the very border to freedom. Here is her chance to escape—hopefully to find her parents. But will she take it? One thing is certain: The person Miri meets that night will save her life. And the person Miri becomes that night could save the lives of many more.

In her return to the era of The War that Saved My Life and The War I Finally Won, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley brings a new and different story, one with a mystical twist, that explores a little-known slice of World War II history, a highly unusual friendship, and the power of choosing courage even when—especially when—there are no good choices to be had.

"Historical fiction at its finest. [A] masterpiece . . . Readers will be wholeheartedly rewarded." SLJ (starred review)
"Poignant . . . A gripping, humane tale." —Kirkus (starred review)
“A deeply sympathetic character facing increasingly dangerous and suspenseful circumstances.” —PW
“Engaging [and] imaginative [with] emotional weight and contemporary appeal.” The Horn Book
“Compelling [with] a hint of magic [that] becomes as satisfying as the whole of this fine novel.”Booklist
Chapter One

July 10, 1942—Paris, France
I could hear sirens. Sirens meant trouble.
“Nothing to worry about, Miri,” Mama said, in her usual soft Yiddish. She didn’t look up from mending the pocket of my other dress.
“You don’t know that,” I said.
Her eyes flicked toward me. “It’s a fire engine, not a police sedan.”
“You can tell the difference?”
“I can.”
I knew she meant to reassure me, but I didn’t quite believe her. To me the two sounded the same. Ever since Monsieur Rosenbaum had been taken away, nearly two years ago now, the sound of sirens made my stomach hurt and my vision swim. Mama thought she understood. I let her think she did.
Now I took a deep breath. Released it slowly. Far below, the sirens continued. “I’m going up,” I said.
My mother pressed her lips together. Papa insisted she let me climb onto the roof, but she hated it when I did. Our apartment was on the sixth floor of our building, so if I did fall I would splatter, but I never feared falling. The roof was the only place in Paris I felt safe. Nothing could touch me there.
I moved our red geranium in its clay pot away from the window. I stretched one foot onto the top of the metal grille that kept things from falling out our window, grabbed the window frame, and heaved myself up so I was standing on the grille. From there it was easy to scramble up the slate tiles, still cool in the morning sun. Our window was a dormer on the top floor: It had its own little roof like a hat. I straddled the hat with my legs and let my head and shoulders rest against the main roof. I turned my face to the blue summer sky.
Sirens still wailed, but I could breathe easier now.
It had been my fault the Nazis took Monsieur Rosenbaum away. No one else knew that. I didn’t have the courage to confess it, not even to my mother.
It happened not long after the Germans invaded Paris, in the summer of 1940 when I was ten. I’d been walking through the crowded streets of our neighborhood, the Pletzl, on my way home from school when I saw our neighbor Monsieur Rosenbaum standing in front of two German soldiers on the sidewalk just ahead of me. Monsieur Rosenbaum was talking to them, though I couldn’t hear his words. Suddenly the soldier with a dark mustache grabbed Monsieur Rosenbaum by one arm. With his other fist he punched Monsieur Rosenbaum in the face.
Monsieur Rosenbaum’s head snapped back. Blood sprayed from his nose. I screamed. I ran forward and threw myself between him and the soldier.
The soldier pushed me sideways, hard. I fell to the pavement, scraping my knees and biting the inside of my cheek.
The other soldier looked down at me and said, “Is this your father, little girl?”
I looked up at the three men. I tasted blood inside my mouth. My arms and legs, my entire body, froze. Only my head could move, and I shook it, to say no.
I shook my head.
“Well, then.” The first soldier kicked me aside. He and the other soldier shoved Monsieur Rosenbaum into the back of a police van parked on the street. The van drove away, siren blaring.
We hadn’t seen Monsieur Rosenbaum since.
I should have said yes, he was my father. I should have jumped to my feet. I should have fought them.
I should have done anything but what I had done.
I ran home breathless and threw up in the toilet at the end of our hall. Mama tucked me into her bed and I lay with my face against the wall, weeping. Before I could bring myself to tell my parents what had happened, neighbors were pounding on our door with the news. Mama thought it was a coincidence that I was sick. I never told her otherwise. I never confessed my shame.
Monsieur Rosenbaum ended up in a prison factory in Germany. He’d been able to send two letters home. Every time I heard sirens, my heart raced. I thought I would vomit all over again. Sometimes I did.
“Miri,” my mother called through the open window.
Mama thought my fear of the police came from Kristallnacht, the night that caused us to flee Berlin. But there’d been no sirens then, even though our house caught fire. The German government had started the riot: They didn’t come to the rescue.
“Miri,” Mama called again. “Please come down. Nora’s here asking for you.”
I sat up. Nora was Madame and Monsieur Rosenbaum’s little girl. She had just turned two years old—she’d been a tiny baby when Monsieur Rosenbaum was arrested. I had loved her since the moment she was born.
I climbed down from the roof more carefully than I’d gone up.
“Gut margn, Miriam,” said Madame Rosenbaum. That was Yiddish for “good morning.”
“Gut margn, Miri!” Nora toddled across the floor and held her skinny arms out to me.
I propped the red geranium back onto the grille, out of Nora’s reach, and swooped her into my arms.
“Dit ‘bonjour,’” I said to her. Say good morning. In French.
Nora laughed. “Fromage!” she said instead. Cheese!
Fromage?” I said, tickling her. “You’re the fromage! Fromage, fromage!”
Nora howled. “Fromage!” she shrieked.
“Fromage!” I shrieked.
Madame Rosenbaum rolled her eyes with a slight smile. “I’m waiting for her to forget that. Fromage, dommage—not such a difference.” She spoke in Yiddish except for the two rhyming French words.
Fromage means “cheese.” Dommage means “Too bad!” When Madame Rosenbaum confused the two a week ago, Nora had burst out laughing. “She won’t forget,” I said. “It’s too funny.”
Madame Rosenbaum said, “Also she’ll have you to remind her.”
“True.” I grinned.
“Fromage.” Nora sighed happily. She leaned her head against my shoulder and tucked the two middle fingers of her left hand into her mouth.
I spoke French fluently, unlike my mother and Madame Rosenbaum. Papa had been a language teacher in Germany and he’d taught me French from when I was a baby. Even if that hadn’t been true, all my school classes were of course taught in French. Almost everyone living in the Pletzl was Jewish. Many of us, like my parents and I, were recent immigrants, and the adults tended to speak the language of whatever country they came from. Mama and Madame Rosenbaum had learned some French but mostly spoke Yiddish, or German, as well, of course, as Hebrew, the Jewish language of prayer.
“Gut Shabbos,” Madame Rosenbaum said to me now.
I smiled. “Gut Shabbos,” I said back. It was Friday, so Shabbos, the Jewish Holy Day, began at sundown. In happy anticipation, we said Gut Shabbos—Yiddish for “Good Shabbos”—all Friday long.
Mama said, “Madame Rosenbaum is tired, Miri, and Nora needs an early nap. Will you do their marketing as well as ours?”
“Um,” I said. I didn’t want to go out on the street, and my mother knew it. “If you do the marketing,” I said, “I’ll clean the apartment for Shabbos. Both apartments.” Madame Rosenbaum and Nora lived next door to us. Monsieur Rosenbaum too, before.
Mama spread her arms. “One room apiece, Miri,” she said. “There’s almost nothing to clean.”
In Germany our house had had three bedrooms, a lovely parlor, and a bright garden that edged up against a little woods. We’d had green space and beautiful things.
Nora pointed toward the cupboard. “Hungry,” she said. “Eat?”
My mother got up quickly. “How could I forget? We have a treat for you, Nora habibi.” She opened our cupboard and took out the small paper-wrapped lump sitting beside a half-loaf of stale bread. She said to Madame Rosenbaum, “My husband taught a language lesson at a café last night. He ordered tea, and this came with it! We saved it for Nora.”
Madame Rosenbaum unwrapped a small dry slice of lemon. “Oh!” She caught her breath.
Nora had been sick most of the winter. Her cough lingered for months, and while she was walking and talking, she wasn’t growing as well as she should. The doctor said she needed more good food, more vegetables, more fruit. This hungry summer there was only less of everything. Most of the food grown by French farmers was being shipped to Germany to feed our enemies. All the French were hungry. We almost never saw fruit in the marketplace, and when we did, we didn’t have money enough to buy it.
Mama heated water and poured it over the lemon slice in a cup. She mashed the lemon with a spoon and stirred as much goodness as she could into the water.
I sat down at the table and put Nora onto my lap. When Mama handed me the cup I held it to Nora’s lips. “Yum,” I said. “Drink up.”
Nora wrinkled her nose above the cup’s rim. “Fromage?”
“Citron,” I said, telling her the French word for lemon. I thought how fresh and good it would taste. My stomach rumbled. We ate breakfast when we could, but I hadn’t today.
Nora smiled at me and drank the lemon water down.
“Go on, Miri,” Mama said, taking Nora and handing me our ration books and some money. “Vern heldishe.” Be brave. “Remember, the baker, he doesn’t bite.”



Chapter Two

I was not afraid of the baker. I was afraid of the soldiers. I was afraid of the crowds and who they might be hiding.
On Kristallnacht in Germany, a mob came down our quiet street shouting angry words. Someone threw a rock through my bedroom window. My father scooped me out of my bed covered with shattered glass and ran me out the back door into our garden. We don’t know who started the fire.
Our first year in Paris we never saw soldiers or police in the Pletzl, but after the Germans invaded, they were everywhere. Monsieur Rosenbaum wasn’t the only man who’d been imprisoned.
They wouldn’t come for me, a child. I knew this, but it didn’t comfort me. I hadn’t tried hard enough to save Monsieur Rosenbaum. Who would they take next?
I took a steadying breath and started down the stairs. Five flights. My clunky wood-soled shoes made a racket on the steps. My insides twisted.
On the ground floor I stopped at the concierge’s office to pick up my carte d’identité. It was a new rule, that apartment concierges—managers—in Jewish neighborhoods had to collect everyone’s identity cards each night.
Our new concierge, Madame Vertron, rummaged through the pile of carte d’identités on her desk. “Remind me of your name?” she said.
“Miriam Schrieber,” I said. Madame Vertron was a gentile, a non-Jew, because that was another new rule: Apartments in Jewish neighborhoods could no longer have Jewish concierges. While she searched, I practiced breathing, as Papa had shown me: long slow breaths while I counted in my head. In for five. Out for five.
Madame Vertron gave me a strange look. “Are you all right?”
I nodded.
“Do you want your parents’ cards too?” she asked.
I shook my head. Papa worked for a Yiddish newspaper printed in a small building inside our apartment building’s courtyard. If he needed his card before I came back, he could fetch it himself. Mama was still upstairs.
I opened the door and poked my nose into the busy street. The Pletzl was only a few blocks wide in each direction, but it was so crowded it never felt small, even though the name Pletzl meant “little place” in Yiddish. Papa told me that over ten thousand Jews lived in the Pletzl right now. I told him it needed a new name.
I braced my shoulders and pushed my way onto the sidewalk. Three people jostled me before I’d reached the first curb. Someone bumped my arm. I spun around—it was an old woman, not a soldier. Turning back I nearly collided with a pair of housewives, who cut their eyes at me for being careless. And then I saw I’d walked past the end of the line for bread, which stretched more than two blocks. I doubled back and added myself to the queue, staring at my shoes to avoid seeing any soldiers.
I hated being surrounded by so many people. If something bad happened, how could I escape? I wished I could hide—in a box perhaps. Stand inside my own private box and shuffle forward until it was my turn to buy bread.
Above me someone shouted, a greeting, not a warning. I looked up toward the open window, but sunlight obscured the person’s face. I blinked and looked away.
Hundreds of years ago, the Pletzl had been a neighborhood for rich people. Its creamy stone buildings still maintained a gaunt elegance, like very old women who had once been beautiful, but now they’d been sectioned into shops and apartments and housed far more people than they had been designed for. Our room under the eaves had once been a servants’ bedroom. The lower floors of the apartment buildings still had high ceilings, arched windows, and elaborate stone carvings around the sills—but most also had too few toilets, unreliable running water, and coal furnaces belching smoke.
Sometimes, when the press of the crowds overwhelmed me, I would half shut my eyes and let the shouts and smells of the current Pletzl disappear. In place of the endless queues and anxious people, I would imagine elegant women in silk gowns with elaborately powdered hair. Instead of the babble of different languages, I would hear the clip-clop of horses pulling shining carriages. Instead of grease and body odors, I would smell nothing but sweet perfume. In my imagined world, the beautiful people all spoke Yiddish. They were healthy and wealthy and had no reason to be afraid.
I looked up. A soldier on the sidewalk a block away stood scanning the crowd. People stepped into the street to avoid passing him too closely.
I turned my head. My stomach heaved. I wanted to run.
I dug my feet into the sidewalk and made myself stay in line. We had nothing to eat, and it was Shabbos.
In the garden behind our house in Germany, we’d had a hydrangea bush that grew white, sweet-smelling flowers all summer long. I used to pick a big bowlful of them for our Shabbos table, and I loved to lie down on the damp earth beneath the blooming branches. Everything around me was quiet and safe, white and green.
We hid beneath that same bush during Kristallnacht, but it had been almost winter then, and the bare branches hardly shielded us from view.
In the Pletzl there wasn’t a single bush. I so missed seeing green leaves instead of stone streets. I so missed smelling flowers instead of old fish and sweat.
I wondered if my bush was blooming now, behind the ruins of our former home.
“Miri!” someone yelled. I jumped and spun around.
It was Anna, one of my school friends. “Oh,” I said, putting my hand to my chest. “You startled me!”
“Sorry!” Anna shouted. “Gut Shabbos!”
“Gut Shabbos!” She was too far down the growing line to chat with. Gradually I shuffled forward toward the bakery’s bright blue door. The warm smell of baking bread drifting down the street obscured all other smells. I inhaled, filling my lungs if not my belly.
At last it was my turn. They still had bread! Beautiful tiny braided loaves, because of Shabbos. I pushed our ration books across the counter. “Five, please.”
“Good morning,” the baker said. He tapped his fingers against the ration books. “Say ‘good morning.’”
I took a breath. “Good morning,” I said. I was not afraid of the baker. Only he was such a large man, and he had such a thick mustache. If he were in uniform, he would look exactly like a German soldier.
“Look at me when you’re speaking to me,” the baker said, with a gentle smile. “What do you say? Gut Shabbos.”
As though I were Nora, needing to be taught manners. I had a sudden urge to call the man a cheese. I grinned. “That’s better,” he said. He leaned across the counter and studied the rest of the line. “I wish I could fill your arms with bread. I can sell you three loaves. No more.”
We had coupons enough for five, and I could have eaten six there on the spot, but I knew he was trying to be fair to the people still waiting.
In Germany, our house had had a kitchen with our own oven and stove. Every Friday, Mama baked the challah herself, two rich, sweet, fluffy loaves. We ate it until we were stuffed and still had bread left over. When it went stale—sometimes it lasted long enough to go stale!—Mama dipped slices in egg and milk and fried them in butter.
No eggs now. No milk. No butter. No oven, no stove, no kitchen, no garden. No flowering bushes. Home had become a single small room under the eaves on the sixth floor of a shabby apartment building. As Papa said, we were together, which was enough.
And for today we had three loaves of bread. I tucked them into my market bag and went down the street to join another line. I was able to buy a tiny piece of cheese—joy—and a head of lettuce—limp and small, but a head of lettuce nonetheless. Then—I saw it behind the greengrocer. A tomato! A fresh ripe tomato! The first tomato I’d seen in a year.
“That,” I said, pointing at it. For once I spoke without hesitation. “That tomato. Can I buy it?” You didn’t need ration coupons for vegetables. “How much?”
A Shabbos miracle. I had enough money. I paid and the shopkeeper put the tomato, warm and heavy, into my hand. My mouth watered. My belly rumbled. I nestled the tomato between the loaves in my market bag.
Hurrying home through the bustling streets, I tripped over a stone curb. I fell forward, arms outstretched. I might have landed on my market bag—might have smashed our precious tomato—but a strong arm grabbed my elbow and hauled me back onto my feet. “Careful,” a man’s voice said.
He wore a uniform. I gasped. But then, the smallest moment later—not a soldier. A French policeman, a gendarme. Not a Nazi. Also, I knew him—he was Monsieur Thireau, his son Thomas was in my class at school. “Monsieur Thireau! Thank you,” I said.
He was still holding my arm. “You’re Miriam, yes?” he said, smiling.
I knew I was safe but my heart still pounded. I took a deep breath and answered, “Oui. Yes. Mama says I need to pay better attention. Gut Shabbo— Oh. I mean, thank you again, Monsieur. Have a good day.” The Thireau family wasn’t Jewish. Most of the students in my school were—enough that, unlike most French schools, we didn’t have classes on Saturdays—but not all of them. My parents instructed me very strictly to always be polite to the Christian students. Many Christians were good people. I should not be prejudiced against them.
“Bonne journée.” Monsieur Thireau tipped his hat to me.
At home, Mama turned the tomato gently in her hands. “This is beautiful,” she said. “Nearly as good as the ones we used to grow. Remember?”
I remembered, those long-ago summers of endless food. I used to pick the tomatoes in our garden hot from the sun and eat them like apples, their juice running down my chin. We grew as many tomatoes as we could possibly want and still had extra to share with our friends.
Now Mama sliced this tomato thinly. I arranged the ruby slices on a plate so they looked like a flower and Mama added salt, pepper, and a drizzle of oil. I opened the can of sardines Papa had brought home and set them beside the loaves of bread. Mama and I admired the spread laid out on the table. “A feast!”
The afternoon sun had faded into a beautiful summer evening. I took my geranium off the window grille. “What do you think?” I asked Mama. “Shall I cut one flower for the table?”
After we fled to France four years ago, we had no money for frivolous things. But one day Papa brought home a small potted plant: our red geranium. “I know you two,” he’d said, putting his arm around Mama and smiling at me. “You need something green and growing. Flowers are as necessary to you as bread.”
Now Mama considered my question. We’d repotted the geranium twice and it was growing well. “No,” she decided. “The blossoms last longer if we leave them on the plant.”
I wiped the bottom of the pot, moved the plate of tomato slices, and put the entire geranium onto the center of the table. Then I got out our brass candlesticks and the precious candles we only lit for Shabbos.
We’d lost our silver candlesticks along with the rest of our house in Berlin. Mama pretended not to mind. I minded—they’d belonged to my great-grandmother and my grandmother, and would someday have belonged to me—but I would not hurt my mother by complaining. I polished our cheap brass candlesticks and put the candles into them, ready for lighting at sundown.
Then I went to the open window, put my foot on the top of the grille, and grabbed the upper window frame with my hand.
“Oh, Miri, not again,” said my mother.
On the roof I stretched myself out over the hot tiles. The heat soothed my tense shoulders. I felt my body relax. The evening sky was a paler blue than morning.
Inside, I heard Mama greet Madame Rosenbaum. She and Nora always joined us for dinner on Shabbos. I heard Nora laugh. Heard Papa come in and say, “Where’s Miriam?”
Mama said, “On the roof, where else?”
Papa chuckled. I didn’t move. The red-gold sky faded to indigo.
“Princess,” my father called, “time to come out of your castle in the air.”
Papa always called the roof my castle. I slid down, stepped onto the grille, and poked my head into the room. “Gut Shabbos,” I whispered.
My father held out his wide strong hand and helped me inside. “Gut Shabbos,” he said. I held the thin skirt of my dress in my hands and made him a royal curtsy. He smiled and made me a deep bow.
“Come, Your Majesty,” he said, “our banquet awaits.”
Nora slapped her little hands against the table. “Fromage!” She squealed with delight when the rest of us laughed.
It was a perfect evening. We were in the middle of a horrible war, but nothing could dampen this moment of joy.
I didn’t know it, but that was my last Shabbos in the Pletzl. Inside of a week, my whole world shattered.


Chapter Three

We had a single day’s warning. My school was on summer holiday but the school itself was near our apartment, and I walked past it often. When I did so on Wednesday, the principal, Monsieur Migneret, beckoned to me from the doorway.
“Miriam,” he said quietly, leaning over, “this is very important.” He blinked at me behind his spectacles and lowered his voice even further. “The Germans are planning a roundup. Tell your father not to sleep at home for the next few nights. Spread the word to everyone you can.”
I stared at him. Fear coursed through my body. “Thank you,” I whispered. I rushed home.
The Nazis had taken Monsieur Rosenbaum early in the occupation. They’d claimed he’d broken a law, though we never learned which one. Since then, Nazis sometimes rounded up groups of civilians on no pretense whatsoever, to get more prisoners to work in German factories. They nearly always targeted Jewish men.
I found Papa in the small noisy pressroom in the courtyard where he worked. Even though I whispered the news, all the men in the room went still, listening. Papa blew out his breath.
“All right, yes,” he said. “We know places we can go.” He patted my shoulder. “It will be all right.”
My arms and legs were trembling. My breath caught in my throat. “What else can I do?” What I wanted to do was hide. Immediately. Hide somewhere safe with my papa and mama, with Madame Rosenbaum and Nora, until this danger was past.
Papa kissed my damp forehead. “Your school friends, if you know where they live,” he said, “go and tell them privately. We can’t be too obvious—we don’t want the concierges to realize we know a roundup’s coming.”
I barely knew Madame Vertron, but I hadn’t thought of her as someone we couldn’t trust. “Yes, Papa,” I whispered. “But—”
“Miri.” Papa kissed me again. “We don’t choose how we feel, but we choose how we act. Choose courage.”
He was always saying that. It irritated me as much as it soothed me. I was not afraid for myself—the Nazis wouldn’t take me to work in a prison factory.
I was afraid for him.
But I did as he asked, hurrying through the streets, eyes down, bile in my throat. I warned Anna and Lea, Berthe and Rachel. I went through our apartment building, quietly knocking and whispering at each door.
That night I clung to Mama in the bed she usually shared with Papa. Warm air blew through the open window. The Pletzl was eerily quiet, as though holding its breath, and I thought I’d never fall asleep. Mama held me close. “It will be all right,” she said. “He’s found a good place to hide.”
In the two letters Madame Rosenbaum had received, Monsieur Rosenbaum had made an effort to sound cheerful about his factory work, but we heard rumors that the living conditions in the prisons were dreadful.
Plus we missed him. He laughed easily and sang loudly and on the day Nora was born, he had said to me, “Oh, Miri, my greatest hope is that she grows up just like you.”
It had been eight months since his second letter. Nora was growing up without her father.
I couldn’t bear the thought of my father being taken too.
Mama stroked my hair. “Hamal’ach hago’el osi, she sang. “Hamal’ach hago’el osi mikol rah . . .” It was a Hebrew song about angels. It had been my lullaby. Mama still sang it often.
I took a deep breath and let it out very slowly, the way my father had taught me. God protect my father, I prayed. God protect us all.
Eventually I did fall asleep. When I woke in the morning Mama’s eyes were already open. “It’s too quiet,” I said.
“I closed the window in the night,” Mama said. “I don’t think anything’s happened yet. Perhaps it will be tonight.” So far, all the roundups had been at night.
“Perhaps there won’t be one?”
Mama pursed her lips and shook her head. Despite my words, I didn’t feel hopeful, either. My stomach twisted.
Mama got up. She poured water into a basin and began to wash. She looked over at me and smiled. “Vern heldishe,” she said. Be brave.
Yes. I would do something. I would prove myself. “I’ll go buy bread,” I said.
Mama’s smile softened. “Thank you. Get as much as you can. We don’t know . . .” Her voice trailed off.
I walked quietly down the many flights of stairs and fetched my carte d’identité without looking Madame Vertron in the eye.
The street was empty, which frightened me even more than the usual crowds. Where had everyone gone? My footsteps sounded hollow against the cobblestones. Had something happened?
The bakery door was locked, and the blinds pulled down over the windows. I stared at the blue door. The baker was Jewish. Of course. He was hiding. Then a woman rushed past me. She looked over her shoulder and said to me, “Haven’t you heard? Get out of here!”
Nearby a police siren began to wail.
The sound felt like a hook being pulled through my belly.
I turned toward home. I heard someone scream. I started to run. As I darted into our building’s entryway, Madame Vertron stuck her head out of her office. “Miriam, go!” she shouted, pointing back onto the street. “Hide yourself! Run!”
I wrenched open the stairwell door. My mother, my mother, I needed my mother. I sprinted up the five flights. Just as I flung open the door to the hallway I heard a loud sharp noise, like a gunshot. Then another scream. I froze.
The door of our apartment stood all the way open. Our window hung open too, and its curtain flapped in the breeze. Through the doorway I could see two gendarmes, one with a pistol in his hand. As I watched, the second gendarme threw my parents’ bed onto its side and scattered the boxes beneath it. Our brass candlesticks tumbled out. The gendarmes kicked them aside.
I could see most of our apartment through the open door. I couldn’t see my mother. Where was she?
That noise—had it been a gunshot?
There was a gun in one man’s hand.
They weren’t Nazis, I realized. They were French. French policemen, in uniform.
I was French. France was now my home. French Jews were at war with the Germans, the same as French Catholics and French Protestants. Why were French policemen here?
Where was my mother? Had they hurt her?
I couldn’t breathe. My feet felt nailed to the ground.
A third gendarme came out of Madame Rosenbaum’s apartment shoving Madame Rosenbaum roughly in front of him. Madame Rosenbaum clutched Nora in one arm and a satchel in her other. Nora was sobbing.
“Oh, Miri, oh no,” Madame Rosenbaum said, in Yiddish.
“Who’s this?” demanded the gendarme.
Madame Rosenbaum’s eyes darted just once toward my apartment. She switched to French and said, “Miri, chérie. Here. Take your sister.”
I reached for Nora, confused. Looked at the policeman. Recognized him.Monsieur Thireau?” I said.
Thomas’s father. The man who’d saved me from falling in the street just days ago. I asked, in French, “What’s happening? What are you doing?”
He looked above my head. “No talking. Hurry.”
Madame Rosenbaum, in Yiddish: “Miri, you know this man?”
“Quiet!” he snapped. “No questions. Hurry!”
“Monsieur?” I said. I moved to stand in front of him. “What are you doing?”
He glanced at me for a brief second, then turned his head. He wouldn’t meet my gaze. “Is this your mother?” he asked.
“My daughter, yes, they are both my daughters,” Madame Rosenbaum said quickly.
Monsieur Thireau pushed us toward the stairs. I whispered in Yiddish to Madame Rosenbaum: “Where is my mother?
“I don’t know. I thought she was in your apartment.”
“Was that noise from a gun?”
Her eyes were full of tears. “I don’t know.
“Quiet!” snarled Monsieur Thireau.
Madame Rosenbaum spoke to him in French, halting and slow. “They’re children, you don’t want children, let them go.”
I said, “You’re Thomas’s father. I’m Miri. Miriam. Remember me? Last week—”
“Quiet!” he shouted. Then he slapped me, hard. “I have no choice. Get down those stairs and stop talking.”
I went down the stairs, stunned, holding Nora tight in my arms. My cheek hurt. I’d never been slapped before.
Where was my mother?
A grown man. A Frenchman. My classmate’s father.
Choose courage, Papa always said. Vern heldishe, my mother’s version. Be brave.
Monsieur Thireau claimed he had no choice. But of course he did. In the street the week before, he’d chosen to help me. Today he’d chosen to slap me. Today he’d chosen the Nazis.
As we stepped into the courtyard I saw something smashed against the cobblestones. Dirt and bright petals and shards of clay pot.
Our red geranium. Fallen from our windowsill six stories up.
My heart shattered with it. I could not breathe.


Chapter Four
The gendarmes raided the entire apartment building. There were so many policemen it didn’t take long. They dragged every person they found out into the street: a few men, but also women and children and babies and frail old people who walked with sticks. Everyone but my mother, who I didn’t see, though I looked and looked and looked.
What had that noise been? Would they have shot her? No one appeared badly hurt. A few people limped or were bleeding, but from cuts, not gunshot wounds.
I looked at Madame Rosenbaum. “Do you think—”
“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “Stay with me.”
The geranium. Its pot shattered. That would have made a noise. Could it have sounded like a gun?
Please be the geranium, I thought. Please don’t have been a gun. But a pot couldn’t have made a sound that loud.
Where was my mother?
The gendarmes herded us onto buses parked on one of the main streets. They were the regular white-topped green city buses that crisscrossed Paris every day, taking university students to their classes, housewives to their shopping, workers to their jobs. Their very ordinariness seemed menacing.
The gendarmes forced more and more people onto our bus. Madame Rosenbaum found a seat and cradled Nora. I stood, squeezed beside them, trying to swallow the fear that kept rising in my throat. The air smelled desperate. Adults cried.
I knew everyone on the bus. I knew their faces if not their names. My friend Anna stood at the very front, her back to me, her arms around her younger brother. I didn’t call out to her. What good would it do?
The bus began to move. I closed my eyes and forced myself to breathe.
“Miri,” Madame Rosenbaum said, tapping my arm, “do you have your carte d’identité?”
I did. I pulled it and my family’s ration books from my pocket. Madame Rosenbaum sighed. She took the ration books and tucked them into her satchel. “I’ll return those, if I can,” she said. Then she took my identity card. It had my photograph, my name and address, and the word JUIVE stamped in red across the entire page. JEW.
Madame Rosenbaum slid the bus window open a fraction and threw my carte d’identité out.
I gasped. “Madame—”
“Shh,” she said. “Take off your sweater and give it to me.”
I peeled off my cotton cardigan. She handed me Nora and put the sweater on. Madame Rosenbaum was a small woman and the sweater was stretchy; it fit her well enough. “Good,” she said.
It took me a moment to understand.
Three weeks ago the Germans had made a rule that all French Jews had to wear a large yellow six-pointed star, the Shield of David, sewn to the outside of our clothing, on the left side of our chests over our hearts.
My parents and I were never ashamed to be known to be Jewish, but the order made us, and nearly everyone else in the Pletzl, nervous. Why did the Nazis want our Jewishness on public display? Atheists weren’t asked to wear symbols.
We had to purchase the stars using both money and precious clothing coupons. I had almost outgrown my two dresses, and Mama needed to save our coupons for winter clothing, so she only bought three stars. She sewed Papa’s to his jacket, and hers and mine to lightweight sweaters we could wear over any of our other clothes.
Now Madame Rosenbaum was wearing my star on a sweater over her own star on her blouse. I wasn’t wearing any star at all. Neither was Nora: Babies didn’t have to.
“They’re not taking us for a work camp,” Madame Rosenbaum said. “Not with children and old people. And look.” She tapped the window.
I looked. In front of our bus, and behind it, and in the lane beside it—more buses. Buses upon buses. Dozens of buses, all full.
They were rounding up more than the entire Pletzl. They were rounding up all the Paris Jews.
Nora cried. Madame Rosenbaum took her back and clutched her tightly against her chest. “Miri,” Madame Rosenbaum said, “I want you to remember something. We always have a choice. Not in what happens to us, but in what we do in response.”
“I know,” I said. “Papa says that.”
Madame Rosenbaum nodded. She patted and soothed her daughter. “And now,” she said, her voice very low, “is a choice I’m asking you to make. When we get wherever we are going, when they let us off this bus, I want you to run.” She looked hard into my eyes. “Are you brave enough to take Nora with you?”


Chapter Five
No. “I can’t run,” I said. “I need to stay here. With you. My mother—” I had to stay where she could find me. My mother and my father. If Mama was alive—if that noise hadn’t been a gun—
I thought of the shattered geranium and my lungs clamped tight.
“That is not the choice I’m giving you,” Madame Rosenbaum said, in a fierce whisper. “You will run. Your mother and father will save themselves if they can. You must honor them by doing the same. This is bad, Miri. This is different from before. You’re young enough, you speak French without an accent—if you can get away from the buses you might be able to escape.” Her lips trembled. “The choice is whether you will take Nora—I think she will be safer with you than with me.” She put her cheek against the top of Nora’s head. She was still looking at me. “I know what I’m asking. Will you?”
Not can you. Will you.
“I know you can do it,” she said. “You are stronger than you think. I have faith in you.”
The gendarmes could have made different choices. It would have been difficult, but they could have done it. Any one of them could have. Thomas’s father could have let us go. Told us to hide until the roundup was over.
If Thomas’s father hadn’t slapped me, I might not have had the courage to walk away from Madame Rosenbaum. Until Thomas’s father slapped me, I hadn’t understood that I myself was in danger. I’d thought all the danger was for the adults, for Monsieur Rosenbaum, for my father, for the men.
It felt strange to be grateful I’d been slapped.
“Where should I go?” I asked. “Home?” I barely knew Paris, aside from the Pletzl. I had visited some of the famous gardens, museums, and monuments, but that was all.
Madame Rosenbaum looked out the window. “No. I don’t think so. The Vichy side, that would be safer.”
The half of France that the Nazis weren’t occupying was run from a small town called Vichy, so all of unoccupied France had come to be known as the Vichy side. Nazis still made some of the rules in Vichy, but there weren’t nearly as many soldiers stationed there.
I pictured the map of France on the wall at school. The Vichy border was hundreds of miles from Paris.
“Get to Switzerland if you can manage it,” Madame Rosenbaum whispered, still not looking at me. “Let us say the city of Zurich. I have a cousin who lives in Zurich.”
Switzerland?” The word nearly stopped my heart. Switzerland was impossible. How could I get myself to Switzerland, me, a twelve-year-old, caring for a toddler? With no papers, no money, no parents? “How—how would you find us in Switzerland?” I asked. “How would my parents find me?”
“We will,” she said. She pulled me toward her and looked straight into my eyes now. Hers were clear and unwavering. “We will. After the war, there will be ways. You know who you are, Miri, and you know who Nora is. You won’t forget. You’ll be looking for us. We’ll be looking for you.”
“Madame—”
She squeezed my hand. “Sara. Sara Rosenbaum. Originally from Frankfurt, Germany. My husband is Herschel Rosenbaum. Nora was born June 24, 1940, in Paris. You will remember this. You will tell Nora who she is.”
The bus pulled to the side of the road. The driver turned off the engine.
I whispered, “You come too.”
Sara Rosenbaum shook her head. “I open my mouth, they hear my accent, they know I’m a Jew. I’ll run, Miri, I promise, but first, for your sakes, I must separate myself from Nora and you.” She tapped the window and nodded at the huge concrete building outside. “It’s the indoor stadium,” she said. “The Vélodrome d’Hiver. They use it for bicycle races.” A long row of buses lined the sidewalk. The people disembarking from them formed a great milling crowd. Policemen stood on all sides, yelling and pushing everyone toward the open stadium doors.
The driver of our bus shouted. People began to step off.
“I can’t do this,” I said.
Sara squeezed my arm. “You can, Miri. Make that choice. Vern heldishe,” she said. Be brave. My mother’s words. She looked around. “You may have to pretend to be someone else for a while,” she added. “But you will remember who you really are.” She put her hand on my forehead. “Yivarechecha Adonai v’yishmerecha. May God bless and protect you. It was the Hebrew prayer my parents said over me every Shabbos.
My stomach clenched. My lungs collapsed. I tried to take a deep breath but I couldn’t. I held out my hands. “Nora, Nora,” I managed to whisper. “Come to me. Your mama needs to carry the suitcase.” I scooped her into my arms. “Good girl! Lovely Nora. My little sister Nora.”
Nora started to protest. She reached for her mother. I hung on to her and blew a raspberry kiss against her belly.
Nora laughed. Madame Rosenbaum’s—Sara’s—hand fluttered over my forehead and caressed Nora’s cheek one last time. She grasped her satchel and pushed past me, walking off the bus with her chin raised. She did not look back. I settled Nora more firmly on my hip, lifted my own trembling chin, and followed.
*An Indie Next Pick*

"Historical fiction at its finest. Two-time Newbery honoree Bradley is at her best here; this is a novel that brings layers of the past to life [and showcases] the author’s expertise as a gifted storyteller. [Her] latest masterpiece features a determined and daring heroine . . . Readers will be wholeheartedly rewarded." —School Library Journal (starred review)

"This poignant story moves quickly but takes care to consider with sensitivity the excruciating choices Miri must make at every turn as she’s torn between choosing safety and honoring her heritage and her convictions. A gripping, humane tale that examines what war demands of children and what it costs them." —Kirkus (starred review)

“Bradley has crafted a compelling historical novel told in Miri’s apposite first-person voice. The book has a hint of magic that . . . becomes as satisfying as the whole of this fine novel.”Booklist

“Engaging [and] imaginative . . . Miri’s vulnerability and sense of responsibility give [the story] emotional weight and contemporary appeal.” —The Horn Book

“Poses thoughtful questions about religious divides and parallels through the experiences of 12-year-old Miriam Schreiber, a German Jew [in 1942 France.] Miri’s highly credible emotions and actions make for a deeply sympathetic character facing increasingly dangerous and suspenseful circumstances.” —Publishers Weekly
© Amy MacMurray
Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is the two-time Newbery Honor winning and #1 New York Times bestselling author of several acclaimed middle grade novels, including Fighting WordsThe War That Saved My Life, The War I Finally Won, and Jefferson’s Sons. She and her husband have two grown children and live with their dog, several ponies, a highly opinionated mare, and a surplus of cats on a fifty-two acre farm in Bris­tol, Tennessee. Visit her at kimberlybrubakerbradley.com. View titles by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

About

From the two-time Newbery Honor-winning author of The War That Saved My Life and Fighting Words comes a middle grade novel set at the border between freedom and fear in World War II France, at the Chateau de Chenonceau, where a Jewish girl who has lost everything but her life must decide whether to risk even that to bring others to freedom.

“We don’t choose how we feel, but we choose how we act.”

It’s 1942. German Nazis occupy much of France. And twelve-year-old Miriam, who is Jewish, is not safe. With help and quick thinking, Miri is saved from the roundup that takes her entire Jewish neighborhood. She escapes Paris, landing in a small French village, where the spires of the famous Chateau de Chenonceau rise high into the sky, its bridge across the River Cher like a promise, a fairy tale. 

But Miri’s life is no fairy tale. Her parents are gone—maybe alive, maybe not. Taken in at the boarding school near the chateau, pretending to be Catholic to escape Nazi capture, Miri is called upon one night to undertake a deadly task, one that spans the castle grounds, its bridge, and the very border to freedom. Here is her chance to escape—hopefully to find her parents. But will she take it? One thing is certain: The person Miri meets that night will save her life. And the person Miri becomes that night could save the lives of many more.

In her return to the era of The War that Saved My Life and The War I Finally Won, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley brings a new and different story, one with a mystical twist, that explores a little-known slice of World War II history, a highly unusual friendship, and the power of choosing courage even when—especially when—there are no good choices to be had.

"Historical fiction at its finest. [A] masterpiece . . . Readers will be wholeheartedly rewarded." SLJ (starred review)
"Poignant . . . A gripping, humane tale." —Kirkus (starred review)
“A deeply sympathetic character facing increasingly dangerous and suspenseful circumstances.” —PW
“Engaging [and] imaginative [with] emotional weight and contemporary appeal.” The Horn Book
“Compelling [with] a hint of magic [that] becomes as satisfying as the whole of this fine novel.”Booklist

Excerpt

Chapter One

July 10, 1942—Paris, France
I could hear sirens. Sirens meant trouble.
“Nothing to worry about, Miri,” Mama said, in her usual soft Yiddish. She didn’t look up from mending the pocket of my other dress.
“You don’t know that,” I said.
Her eyes flicked toward me. “It’s a fire engine, not a police sedan.”
“You can tell the difference?”
“I can.”
I knew she meant to reassure me, but I didn’t quite believe her. To me the two sounded the same. Ever since Monsieur Rosenbaum had been taken away, nearly two years ago now, the sound of sirens made my stomach hurt and my vision swim. Mama thought she understood. I let her think she did.
Now I took a deep breath. Released it slowly. Far below, the sirens continued. “I’m going up,” I said.
My mother pressed her lips together. Papa insisted she let me climb onto the roof, but she hated it when I did. Our apartment was on the sixth floor of our building, so if I did fall I would splatter, but I never feared falling. The roof was the only place in Paris I felt safe. Nothing could touch me there.
I moved our red geranium in its clay pot away from the window. I stretched one foot onto the top of the metal grille that kept things from falling out our window, grabbed the window frame, and heaved myself up so I was standing on the grille. From there it was easy to scramble up the slate tiles, still cool in the morning sun. Our window was a dormer on the top floor: It had its own little roof like a hat. I straddled the hat with my legs and let my head and shoulders rest against the main roof. I turned my face to the blue summer sky.
Sirens still wailed, but I could breathe easier now.
It had been my fault the Nazis took Monsieur Rosenbaum away. No one else knew that. I didn’t have the courage to confess it, not even to my mother.
It happened not long after the Germans invaded Paris, in the summer of 1940 when I was ten. I’d been walking through the crowded streets of our neighborhood, the Pletzl, on my way home from school when I saw our neighbor Monsieur Rosenbaum standing in front of two German soldiers on the sidewalk just ahead of me. Monsieur Rosenbaum was talking to them, though I couldn’t hear his words. Suddenly the soldier with a dark mustache grabbed Monsieur Rosenbaum by one arm. With his other fist he punched Monsieur Rosenbaum in the face.
Monsieur Rosenbaum’s head snapped back. Blood sprayed from his nose. I screamed. I ran forward and threw myself between him and the soldier.
The soldier pushed me sideways, hard. I fell to the pavement, scraping my knees and biting the inside of my cheek.
The other soldier looked down at me and said, “Is this your father, little girl?”
I looked up at the three men. I tasted blood inside my mouth. My arms and legs, my entire body, froze. Only my head could move, and I shook it, to say no.
I shook my head.
“Well, then.” The first soldier kicked me aside. He and the other soldier shoved Monsieur Rosenbaum into the back of a police van parked on the street. The van drove away, siren blaring.
We hadn’t seen Monsieur Rosenbaum since.
I should have said yes, he was my father. I should have jumped to my feet. I should have fought them.
I should have done anything but what I had done.
I ran home breathless and threw up in the toilet at the end of our hall. Mama tucked me into her bed and I lay with my face against the wall, weeping. Before I could bring myself to tell my parents what had happened, neighbors were pounding on our door with the news. Mama thought it was a coincidence that I was sick. I never told her otherwise. I never confessed my shame.
Monsieur Rosenbaum ended up in a prison factory in Germany. He’d been able to send two letters home. Every time I heard sirens, my heart raced. I thought I would vomit all over again. Sometimes I did.
“Miri,” my mother called through the open window.
Mama thought my fear of the police came from Kristallnacht, the night that caused us to flee Berlin. But there’d been no sirens then, even though our house caught fire. The German government had started the riot: They didn’t come to the rescue.
“Miri,” Mama called again. “Please come down. Nora’s here asking for you.”
I sat up. Nora was Madame and Monsieur Rosenbaum’s little girl. She had just turned two years old—she’d been a tiny baby when Monsieur Rosenbaum was arrested. I had loved her since the moment she was born.
I climbed down from the roof more carefully than I’d gone up.
“Gut margn, Miriam,” said Madame Rosenbaum. That was Yiddish for “good morning.”
“Gut margn, Miri!” Nora toddled across the floor and held her skinny arms out to me.
I propped the red geranium back onto the grille, out of Nora’s reach, and swooped her into my arms.
“Dit ‘bonjour,’” I said to her. Say good morning. In French.
Nora laughed. “Fromage!” she said instead. Cheese!
Fromage?” I said, tickling her. “You’re the fromage! Fromage, fromage!”
Nora howled. “Fromage!” she shrieked.
“Fromage!” I shrieked.
Madame Rosenbaum rolled her eyes with a slight smile. “I’m waiting for her to forget that. Fromage, dommage—not such a difference.” She spoke in Yiddish except for the two rhyming French words.
Fromage means “cheese.” Dommage means “Too bad!” When Madame Rosenbaum confused the two a week ago, Nora had burst out laughing. “She won’t forget,” I said. “It’s too funny.”
Madame Rosenbaum said, “Also she’ll have you to remind her.”
“True.” I grinned.
“Fromage.” Nora sighed happily. She leaned her head against my shoulder and tucked the two middle fingers of her left hand into her mouth.
I spoke French fluently, unlike my mother and Madame Rosenbaum. Papa had been a language teacher in Germany and he’d taught me French from when I was a baby. Even if that hadn’t been true, all my school classes were of course taught in French. Almost everyone living in the Pletzl was Jewish. Many of us, like my parents and I, were recent immigrants, and the adults tended to speak the language of whatever country they came from. Mama and Madame Rosenbaum had learned some French but mostly spoke Yiddish, or German, as well, of course, as Hebrew, the Jewish language of prayer.
“Gut Shabbos,” Madame Rosenbaum said to me now.
I smiled. “Gut Shabbos,” I said back. It was Friday, so Shabbos, the Jewish Holy Day, began at sundown. In happy anticipation, we said Gut Shabbos—Yiddish for “Good Shabbos”—all Friday long.
Mama said, “Madame Rosenbaum is tired, Miri, and Nora needs an early nap. Will you do their marketing as well as ours?”
“Um,” I said. I didn’t want to go out on the street, and my mother knew it. “If you do the marketing,” I said, “I’ll clean the apartment for Shabbos. Both apartments.” Madame Rosenbaum and Nora lived next door to us. Monsieur Rosenbaum too, before.
Mama spread her arms. “One room apiece, Miri,” she said. “There’s almost nothing to clean.”
In Germany our house had had three bedrooms, a lovely parlor, and a bright garden that edged up against a little woods. We’d had green space and beautiful things.
Nora pointed toward the cupboard. “Hungry,” she said. “Eat?”
My mother got up quickly. “How could I forget? We have a treat for you, Nora habibi.” She opened our cupboard and took out the small paper-wrapped lump sitting beside a half-loaf of stale bread. She said to Madame Rosenbaum, “My husband taught a language lesson at a café last night. He ordered tea, and this came with it! We saved it for Nora.”
Madame Rosenbaum unwrapped a small dry slice of lemon. “Oh!” She caught her breath.
Nora had been sick most of the winter. Her cough lingered for months, and while she was walking and talking, she wasn’t growing as well as she should. The doctor said she needed more good food, more vegetables, more fruit. This hungry summer there was only less of everything. Most of the food grown by French farmers was being shipped to Germany to feed our enemies. All the French were hungry. We almost never saw fruit in the marketplace, and when we did, we didn’t have money enough to buy it.
Mama heated water and poured it over the lemon slice in a cup. She mashed the lemon with a spoon and stirred as much goodness as she could into the water.
I sat down at the table and put Nora onto my lap. When Mama handed me the cup I held it to Nora’s lips. “Yum,” I said. “Drink up.”
Nora wrinkled her nose above the cup’s rim. “Fromage?”
“Citron,” I said, telling her the French word for lemon. I thought how fresh and good it would taste. My stomach rumbled. We ate breakfast when we could, but I hadn’t today.
Nora smiled at me and drank the lemon water down.
“Go on, Miri,” Mama said, taking Nora and handing me our ration books and some money. “Vern heldishe.” Be brave. “Remember, the baker, he doesn’t bite.”



Chapter Two

I was not afraid of the baker. I was afraid of the soldiers. I was afraid of the crowds and who they might be hiding.
On Kristallnacht in Germany, a mob came down our quiet street shouting angry words. Someone threw a rock through my bedroom window. My father scooped me out of my bed covered with shattered glass and ran me out the back door into our garden. We don’t know who started the fire.
Our first year in Paris we never saw soldiers or police in the Pletzl, but after the Germans invaded, they were everywhere. Monsieur Rosenbaum wasn’t the only man who’d been imprisoned.
They wouldn’t come for me, a child. I knew this, but it didn’t comfort me. I hadn’t tried hard enough to save Monsieur Rosenbaum. Who would they take next?
I took a steadying breath and started down the stairs. Five flights. My clunky wood-soled shoes made a racket on the steps. My insides twisted.
On the ground floor I stopped at the concierge’s office to pick up my carte d’identité. It was a new rule, that apartment concierges—managers—in Jewish neighborhoods had to collect everyone’s identity cards each night.
Our new concierge, Madame Vertron, rummaged through the pile of carte d’identités on her desk. “Remind me of your name?” she said.
“Miriam Schrieber,” I said. Madame Vertron was a gentile, a non-Jew, because that was another new rule: Apartments in Jewish neighborhoods could no longer have Jewish concierges. While she searched, I practiced breathing, as Papa had shown me: long slow breaths while I counted in my head. In for five. Out for five.
Madame Vertron gave me a strange look. “Are you all right?”
I nodded.
“Do you want your parents’ cards too?” she asked.
I shook my head. Papa worked for a Yiddish newspaper printed in a small building inside our apartment building’s courtyard. If he needed his card before I came back, he could fetch it himself. Mama was still upstairs.
I opened the door and poked my nose into the busy street. The Pletzl was only a few blocks wide in each direction, but it was so crowded it never felt small, even though the name Pletzl meant “little place” in Yiddish. Papa told me that over ten thousand Jews lived in the Pletzl right now. I told him it needed a new name.
I braced my shoulders and pushed my way onto the sidewalk. Three people jostled me before I’d reached the first curb. Someone bumped my arm. I spun around—it was an old woman, not a soldier. Turning back I nearly collided with a pair of housewives, who cut their eyes at me for being careless. And then I saw I’d walked past the end of the line for bread, which stretched more than two blocks. I doubled back and added myself to the queue, staring at my shoes to avoid seeing any soldiers.
I hated being surrounded by so many people. If something bad happened, how could I escape? I wished I could hide—in a box perhaps. Stand inside my own private box and shuffle forward until it was my turn to buy bread.
Above me someone shouted, a greeting, not a warning. I looked up toward the open window, but sunlight obscured the person’s face. I blinked and looked away.
Hundreds of years ago, the Pletzl had been a neighborhood for rich people. Its creamy stone buildings still maintained a gaunt elegance, like very old women who had once been beautiful, but now they’d been sectioned into shops and apartments and housed far more people than they had been designed for. Our room under the eaves had once been a servants’ bedroom. The lower floors of the apartment buildings still had high ceilings, arched windows, and elaborate stone carvings around the sills—but most also had too few toilets, unreliable running water, and coal furnaces belching smoke.
Sometimes, when the press of the crowds overwhelmed me, I would half shut my eyes and let the shouts and smells of the current Pletzl disappear. In place of the endless queues and anxious people, I would imagine elegant women in silk gowns with elaborately powdered hair. Instead of the babble of different languages, I would hear the clip-clop of horses pulling shining carriages. Instead of grease and body odors, I would smell nothing but sweet perfume. In my imagined world, the beautiful people all spoke Yiddish. They were healthy and wealthy and had no reason to be afraid.
I looked up. A soldier on the sidewalk a block away stood scanning the crowd. People stepped into the street to avoid passing him too closely.
I turned my head. My stomach heaved. I wanted to run.
I dug my feet into the sidewalk and made myself stay in line. We had nothing to eat, and it was Shabbos.
In the garden behind our house in Germany, we’d had a hydrangea bush that grew white, sweet-smelling flowers all summer long. I used to pick a big bowlful of them for our Shabbos table, and I loved to lie down on the damp earth beneath the blooming branches. Everything around me was quiet and safe, white and green.
We hid beneath that same bush during Kristallnacht, but it had been almost winter then, and the bare branches hardly shielded us from view.
In the Pletzl there wasn’t a single bush. I so missed seeing green leaves instead of stone streets. I so missed smelling flowers instead of old fish and sweat.
I wondered if my bush was blooming now, behind the ruins of our former home.
“Miri!” someone yelled. I jumped and spun around.
It was Anna, one of my school friends. “Oh,” I said, putting my hand to my chest. “You startled me!”
“Sorry!” Anna shouted. “Gut Shabbos!”
“Gut Shabbos!” She was too far down the growing line to chat with. Gradually I shuffled forward toward the bakery’s bright blue door. The warm smell of baking bread drifting down the street obscured all other smells. I inhaled, filling my lungs if not my belly.
At last it was my turn. They still had bread! Beautiful tiny braided loaves, because of Shabbos. I pushed our ration books across the counter. “Five, please.”
“Good morning,” the baker said. He tapped his fingers against the ration books. “Say ‘good morning.’”
I took a breath. “Good morning,” I said. I was not afraid of the baker. Only he was such a large man, and he had such a thick mustache. If he were in uniform, he would look exactly like a German soldier.
“Look at me when you’re speaking to me,” the baker said, with a gentle smile. “What do you say? Gut Shabbos.”
As though I were Nora, needing to be taught manners. I had a sudden urge to call the man a cheese. I grinned. “That’s better,” he said. He leaned across the counter and studied the rest of the line. “I wish I could fill your arms with bread. I can sell you three loaves. No more.”
We had coupons enough for five, and I could have eaten six there on the spot, but I knew he was trying to be fair to the people still waiting.
In Germany, our house had had a kitchen with our own oven and stove. Every Friday, Mama baked the challah herself, two rich, sweet, fluffy loaves. We ate it until we were stuffed and still had bread left over. When it went stale—sometimes it lasted long enough to go stale!—Mama dipped slices in egg and milk and fried them in butter.
No eggs now. No milk. No butter. No oven, no stove, no kitchen, no garden. No flowering bushes. Home had become a single small room under the eaves on the sixth floor of a shabby apartment building. As Papa said, we were together, which was enough.
And for today we had three loaves of bread. I tucked them into my market bag and went down the street to join another line. I was able to buy a tiny piece of cheese—joy—and a head of lettuce—limp and small, but a head of lettuce nonetheless. Then—I saw it behind the greengrocer. A tomato! A fresh ripe tomato! The first tomato I’d seen in a year.
“That,” I said, pointing at it. For once I spoke without hesitation. “That tomato. Can I buy it?” You didn’t need ration coupons for vegetables. “How much?”
A Shabbos miracle. I had enough money. I paid and the shopkeeper put the tomato, warm and heavy, into my hand. My mouth watered. My belly rumbled. I nestled the tomato between the loaves in my market bag.
Hurrying home through the bustling streets, I tripped over a stone curb. I fell forward, arms outstretched. I might have landed on my market bag—might have smashed our precious tomato—but a strong arm grabbed my elbow and hauled me back onto my feet. “Careful,” a man’s voice said.
He wore a uniform. I gasped. But then, the smallest moment later—not a soldier. A French policeman, a gendarme. Not a Nazi. Also, I knew him—he was Monsieur Thireau, his son Thomas was in my class at school. “Monsieur Thireau! Thank you,” I said.
He was still holding my arm. “You’re Miriam, yes?” he said, smiling.
I knew I was safe but my heart still pounded. I took a deep breath and answered, “Oui. Yes. Mama says I need to pay better attention. Gut Shabbo— Oh. I mean, thank you again, Monsieur. Have a good day.” The Thireau family wasn’t Jewish. Most of the students in my school were—enough that, unlike most French schools, we didn’t have classes on Saturdays—but not all of them. My parents instructed me very strictly to always be polite to the Christian students. Many Christians were good people. I should not be prejudiced against them.
“Bonne journée.” Monsieur Thireau tipped his hat to me.
At home, Mama turned the tomato gently in her hands. “This is beautiful,” she said. “Nearly as good as the ones we used to grow. Remember?”
I remembered, those long-ago summers of endless food. I used to pick the tomatoes in our garden hot from the sun and eat them like apples, their juice running down my chin. We grew as many tomatoes as we could possibly want and still had extra to share with our friends.
Now Mama sliced this tomato thinly. I arranged the ruby slices on a plate so they looked like a flower and Mama added salt, pepper, and a drizzle of oil. I opened the can of sardines Papa had brought home and set them beside the loaves of bread. Mama and I admired the spread laid out on the table. “A feast!”
The afternoon sun had faded into a beautiful summer evening. I took my geranium off the window grille. “What do you think?” I asked Mama. “Shall I cut one flower for the table?”
After we fled to France four years ago, we had no money for frivolous things. But one day Papa brought home a small potted plant: our red geranium. “I know you two,” he’d said, putting his arm around Mama and smiling at me. “You need something green and growing. Flowers are as necessary to you as bread.”
Now Mama considered my question. We’d repotted the geranium twice and it was growing well. “No,” she decided. “The blossoms last longer if we leave them on the plant.”
I wiped the bottom of the pot, moved the plate of tomato slices, and put the entire geranium onto the center of the table. Then I got out our brass candlesticks and the precious candles we only lit for Shabbos.
We’d lost our silver candlesticks along with the rest of our house in Berlin. Mama pretended not to mind. I minded—they’d belonged to my great-grandmother and my grandmother, and would someday have belonged to me—but I would not hurt my mother by complaining. I polished our cheap brass candlesticks and put the candles into them, ready for lighting at sundown.
Then I went to the open window, put my foot on the top of the grille, and grabbed the upper window frame with my hand.
“Oh, Miri, not again,” said my mother.
On the roof I stretched myself out over the hot tiles. The heat soothed my tense shoulders. I felt my body relax. The evening sky was a paler blue than morning.
Inside, I heard Mama greet Madame Rosenbaum. She and Nora always joined us for dinner on Shabbos. I heard Nora laugh. Heard Papa come in and say, “Where’s Miriam?”
Mama said, “On the roof, where else?”
Papa chuckled. I didn’t move. The red-gold sky faded to indigo.
“Princess,” my father called, “time to come out of your castle in the air.”
Papa always called the roof my castle. I slid down, stepped onto the grille, and poked my head into the room. “Gut Shabbos,” I whispered.
My father held out his wide strong hand and helped me inside. “Gut Shabbos,” he said. I held the thin skirt of my dress in my hands and made him a royal curtsy. He smiled and made me a deep bow.
“Come, Your Majesty,” he said, “our banquet awaits.”
Nora slapped her little hands against the table. “Fromage!” She squealed with delight when the rest of us laughed.
It was a perfect evening. We were in the middle of a horrible war, but nothing could dampen this moment of joy.
I didn’t know it, but that was my last Shabbos in the Pletzl. Inside of a week, my whole world shattered.


Chapter Three

We had a single day’s warning. My school was on summer holiday but the school itself was near our apartment, and I walked past it often. When I did so on Wednesday, the principal, Monsieur Migneret, beckoned to me from the doorway.
“Miriam,” he said quietly, leaning over, “this is very important.” He blinked at me behind his spectacles and lowered his voice even further. “The Germans are planning a roundup. Tell your father not to sleep at home for the next few nights. Spread the word to everyone you can.”
I stared at him. Fear coursed through my body. “Thank you,” I whispered. I rushed home.
The Nazis had taken Monsieur Rosenbaum early in the occupation. They’d claimed he’d broken a law, though we never learned which one. Since then, Nazis sometimes rounded up groups of civilians on no pretense whatsoever, to get more prisoners to work in German factories. They nearly always targeted Jewish men.
I found Papa in the small noisy pressroom in the courtyard where he worked. Even though I whispered the news, all the men in the room went still, listening. Papa blew out his breath.
“All right, yes,” he said. “We know places we can go.” He patted my shoulder. “It will be all right.”
My arms and legs were trembling. My breath caught in my throat. “What else can I do?” What I wanted to do was hide. Immediately. Hide somewhere safe with my papa and mama, with Madame Rosenbaum and Nora, until this danger was past.
Papa kissed my damp forehead. “Your school friends, if you know where they live,” he said, “go and tell them privately. We can’t be too obvious—we don’t want the concierges to realize we know a roundup’s coming.”
I barely knew Madame Vertron, but I hadn’t thought of her as someone we couldn’t trust. “Yes, Papa,” I whispered. “But—”
“Miri.” Papa kissed me again. “We don’t choose how we feel, but we choose how we act. Choose courage.”
He was always saying that. It irritated me as much as it soothed me. I was not afraid for myself—the Nazis wouldn’t take me to work in a prison factory.
I was afraid for him.
But I did as he asked, hurrying through the streets, eyes down, bile in my throat. I warned Anna and Lea, Berthe and Rachel. I went through our apartment building, quietly knocking and whispering at each door.
That night I clung to Mama in the bed she usually shared with Papa. Warm air blew through the open window. The Pletzl was eerily quiet, as though holding its breath, and I thought I’d never fall asleep. Mama held me close. “It will be all right,” she said. “He’s found a good place to hide.”
In the two letters Madame Rosenbaum had received, Monsieur Rosenbaum had made an effort to sound cheerful about his factory work, but we heard rumors that the living conditions in the prisons were dreadful.
Plus we missed him. He laughed easily and sang loudly and on the day Nora was born, he had said to me, “Oh, Miri, my greatest hope is that she grows up just like you.”
It had been eight months since his second letter. Nora was growing up without her father.
I couldn’t bear the thought of my father being taken too.
Mama stroked my hair. “Hamal’ach hago’el osi, she sang. “Hamal’ach hago’el osi mikol rah . . .” It was a Hebrew song about angels. It had been my lullaby. Mama still sang it often.
I took a deep breath and let it out very slowly, the way my father had taught me. God protect my father, I prayed. God protect us all.
Eventually I did fall asleep. When I woke in the morning Mama’s eyes were already open. “It’s too quiet,” I said.
“I closed the window in the night,” Mama said. “I don’t think anything’s happened yet. Perhaps it will be tonight.” So far, all the roundups had been at night.
“Perhaps there won’t be one?”
Mama pursed her lips and shook her head. Despite my words, I didn’t feel hopeful, either. My stomach twisted.
Mama got up. She poured water into a basin and began to wash. She looked over at me and smiled. “Vern heldishe,” she said. Be brave.
Yes. I would do something. I would prove myself. “I’ll go buy bread,” I said.
Mama’s smile softened. “Thank you. Get as much as you can. We don’t know . . .” Her voice trailed off.
I walked quietly down the many flights of stairs and fetched my carte d’identité without looking Madame Vertron in the eye.
The street was empty, which frightened me even more than the usual crowds. Where had everyone gone? My footsteps sounded hollow against the cobblestones. Had something happened?
The bakery door was locked, and the blinds pulled down over the windows. I stared at the blue door. The baker was Jewish. Of course. He was hiding. Then a woman rushed past me. She looked over her shoulder and said to me, “Haven’t you heard? Get out of here!”
Nearby a police siren began to wail.
The sound felt like a hook being pulled through my belly.
I turned toward home. I heard someone scream. I started to run. As I darted into our building’s entryway, Madame Vertron stuck her head out of her office. “Miriam, go!” she shouted, pointing back onto the street. “Hide yourself! Run!”
I wrenched open the stairwell door. My mother, my mother, I needed my mother. I sprinted up the five flights. Just as I flung open the door to the hallway I heard a loud sharp noise, like a gunshot. Then another scream. I froze.
The door of our apartment stood all the way open. Our window hung open too, and its curtain flapped in the breeze. Through the doorway I could see two gendarmes, one with a pistol in his hand. As I watched, the second gendarme threw my parents’ bed onto its side and scattered the boxes beneath it. Our brass candlesticks tumbled out. The gendarmes kicked them aside.
I could see most of our apartment through the open door. I couldn’t see my mother. Where was she?
That noise—had it been a gunshot?
There was a gun in one man’s hand.
They weren’t Nazis, I realized. They were French. French policemen, in uniform.
I was French. France was now my home. French Jews were at war with the Germans, the same as French Catholics and French Protestants. Why were French policemen here?
Where was my mother? Had they hurt her?
I couldn’t breathe. My feet felt nailed to the ground.
A third gendarme came out of Madame Rosenbaum’s apartment shoving Madame Rosenbaum roughly in front of him. Madame Rosenbaum clutched Nora in one arm and a satchel in her other. Nora was sobbing.
“Oh, Miri, oh no,” Madame Rosenbaum said, in Yiddish.
“Who’s this?” demanded the gendarme.
Madame Rosenbaum’s eyes darted just once toward my apartment. She switched to French and said, “Miri, chérie. Here. Take your sister.”
I reached for Nora, confused. Looked at the policeman. Recognized him.Monsieur Thireau?” I said.
Thomas’s father. The man who’d saved me from falling in the street just days ago. I asked, in French, “What’s happening? What are you doing?”
He looked above my head. “No talking. Hurry.”
Madame Rosenbaum, in Yiddish: “Miri, you know this man?”
“Quiet!” he snapped. “No questions. Hurry!”
“Monsieur?” I said. I moved to stand in front of him. “What are you doing?”
He glanced at me for a brief second, then turned his head. He wouldn’t meet my gaze. “Is this your mother?” he asked.
“My daughter, yes, they are both my daughters,” Madame Rosenbaum said quickly.
Monsieur Thireau pushed us toward the stairs. I whispered in Yiddish to Madame Rosenbaum: “Where is my mother?
“I don’t know. I thought she was in your apartment.”
“Was that noise from a gun?”
Her eyes were full of tears. “I don’t know.
“Quiet!” snarled Monsieur Thireau.
Madame Rosenbaum spoke to him in French, halting and slow. “They’re children, you don’t want children, let them go.”
I said, “You’re Thomas’s father. I’m Miri. Miriam. Remember me? Last week—”
“Quiet!” he shouted. Then he slapped me, hard. “I have no choice. Get down those stairs and stop talking.”
I went down the stairs, stunned, holding Nora tight in my arms. My cheek hurt. I’d never been slapped before.
Where was my mother?
A grown man. A Frenchman. My classmate’s father.
Choose courage, Papa always said. Vern heldishe, my mother’s version. Be brave.
Monsieur Thireau claimed he had no choice. But of course he did. In the street the week before, he’d chosen to help me. Today he’d chosen to slap me. Today he’d chosen the Nazis.
As we stepped into the courtyard I saw something smashed against the cobblestones. Dirt and bright petals and shards of clay pot.
Our red geranium. Fallen from our windowsill six stories up.
My heart shattered with it. I could not breathe.


Chapter Four
The gendarmes raided the entire apartment building. There were so many policemen it didn’t take long. They dragged every person they found out into the street: a few men, but also women and children and babies and frail old people who walked with sticks. Everyone but my mother, who I didn’t see, though I looked and looked and looked.
What had that noise been? Would they have shot her? No one appeared badly hurt. A few people limped or were bleeding, but from cuts, not gunshot wounds.
I looked at Madame Rosenbaum. “Do you think—”
“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “Stay with me.”
The geranium. Its pot shattered. That would have made a noise. Could it have sounded like a gun?
Please be the geranium, I thought. Please don’t have been a gun. But a pot couldn’t have made a sound that loud.
Where was my mother?
The gendarmes herded us onto buses parked on one of the main streets. They were the regular white-topped green city buses that crisscrossed Paris every day, taking university students to their classes, housewives to their shopping, workers to their jobs. Their very ordinariness seemed menacing.
The gendarmes forced more and more people onto our bus. Madame Rosenbaum found a seat and cradled Nora. I stood, squeezed beside them, trying to swallow the fear that kept rising in my throat. The air smelled desperate. Adults cried.
I knew everyone on the bus. I knew their faces if not their names. My friend Anna stood at the very front, her back to me, her arms around her younger brother. I didn’t call out to her. What good would it do?
The bus began to move. I closed my eyes and forced myself to breathe.
“Miri,” Madame Rosenbaum said, tapping my arm, “do you have your carte d’identité?”
I did. I pulled it and my family’s ration books from my pocket. Madame Rosenbaum sighed. She took the ration books and tucked them into her satchel. “I’ll return those, if I can,” she said. Then she took my identity card. It had my photograph, my name and address, and the word JUIVE stamped in red across the entire page. JEW.
Madame Rosenbaum slid the bus window open a fraction and threw my carte d’identité out.
I gasped. “Madame—”
“Shh,” she said. “Take off your sweater and give it to me.”
I peeled off my cotton cardigan. She handed me Nora and put the sweater on. Madame Rosenbaum was a small woman and the sweater was stretchy; it fit her well enough. “Good,” she said.
It took me a moment to understand.
Three weeks ago the Germans had made a rule that all French Jews had to wear a large yellow six-pointed star, the Shield of David, sewn to the outside of our clothing, on the left side of our chests over our hearts.
My parents and I were never ashamed to be known to be Jewish, but the order made us, and nearly everyone else in the Pletzl, nervous. Why did the Nazis want our Jewishness on public display? Atheists weren’t asked to wear symbols.
We had to purchase the stars using both money and precious clothing coupons. I had almost outgrown my two dresses, and Mama needed to save our coupons for winter clothing, so she only bought three stars. She sewed Papa’s to his jacket, and hers and mine to lightweight sweaters we could wear over any of our other clothes.
Now Madame Rosenbaum was wearing my star on a sweater over her own star on her blouse. I wasn’t wearing any star at all. Neither was Nora: Babies didn’t have to.
“They’re not taking us for a work camp,” Madame Rosenbaum said. “Not with children and old people. And look.” She tapped the window.
I looked. In front of our bus, and behind it, and in the lane beside it—more buses. Buses upon buses. Dozens of buses, all full.
They were rounding up more than the entire Pletzl. They were rounding up all the Paris Jews.
Nora cried. Madame Rosenbaum took her back and clutched her tightly against her chest. “Miri,” Madame Rosenbaum said, “I want you to remember something. We always have a choice. Not in what happens to us, but in what we do in response.”
“I know,” I said. “Papa says that.”
Madame Rosenbaum nodded. She patted and soothed her daughter. “And now,” she said, her voice very low, “is a choice I’m asking you to make. When we get wherever we are going, when they let us off this bus, I want you to run.” She looked hard into my eyes. “Are you brave enough to take Nora with you?”


Chapter Five
No. “I can’t run,” I said. “I need to stay here. With you. My mother—” I had to stay where she could find me. My mother and my father. If Mama was alive—if that noise hadn’t been a gun—
I thought of the shattered geranium and my lungs clamped tight.
“That is not the choice I’m giving you,” Madame Rosenbaum said, in a fierce whisper. “You will run. Your mother and father will save themselves if they can. You must honor them by doing the same. This is bad, Miri. This is different from before. You’re young enough, you speak French without an accent—if you can get away from the buses you might be able to escape.” Her lips trembled. “The choice is whether you will take Nora—I think she will be safer with you than with me.” She put her cheek against the top of Nora’s head. She was still looking at me. “I know what I’m asking. Will you?”
Not can you. Will you.
“I know you can do it,” she said. “You are stronger than you think. I have faith in you.”
The gendarmes could have made different choices. It would have been difficult, but they could have done it. Any one of them could have. Thomas’s father could have let us go. Told us to hide until the roundup was over.
If Thomas’s father hadn’t slapped me, I might not have had the courage to walk away from Madame Rosenbaum. Until Thomas’s father slapped me, I hadn’t understood that I myself was in danger. I’d thought all the danger was for the adults, for Monsieur Rosenbaum, for my father, for the men.
It felt strange to be grateful I’d been slapped.
“Where should I go?” I asked. “Home?” I barely knew Paris, aside from the Pletzl. I had visited some of the famous gardens, museums, and monuments, but that was all.
Madame Rosenbaum looked out the window. “No. I don’t think so. The Vichy side, that would be safer.”
The half of France that the Nazis weren’t occupying was run from a small town called Vichy, so all of unoccupied France had come to be known as the Vichy side. Nazis still made some of the rules in Vichy, but there weren’t nearly as many soldiers stationed there.
I pictured the map of France on the wall at school. The Vichy border was hundreds of miles from Paris.
“Get to Switzerland if you can manage it,” Madame Rosenbaum whispered, still not looking at me. “Let us say the city of Zurich. I have a cousin who lives in Zurich.”
Switzerland?” The word nearly stopped my heart. Switzerland was impossible. How could I get myself to Switzerland, me, a twelve-year-old, caring for a toddler? With no papers, no money, no parents? “How—how would you find us in Switzerland?” I asked. “How would my parents find me?”
“We will,” she said. She pulled me toward her and looked straight into my eyes now. Hers were clear and unwavering. “We will. After the war, there will be ways. You know who you are, Miri, and you know who Nora is. You won’t forget. You’ll be looking for us. We’ll be looking for you.”
“Madame—”
She squeezed my hand. “Sara. Sara Rosenbaum. Originally from Frankfurt, Germany. My husband is Herschel Rosenbaum. Nora was born June 24, 1940, in Paris. You will remember this. You will tell Nora who she is.”
The bus pulled to the side of the road. The driver turned off the engine.
I whispered, “You come too.”
Sara Rosenbaum shook her head. “I open my mouth, they hear my accent, they know I’m a Jew. I’ll run, Miri, I promise, but first, for your sakes, I must separate myself from Nora and you.” She tapped the window and nodded at the huge concrete building outside. “It’s the indoor stadium,” she said. “The Vélodrome d’Hiver. They use it for bicycle races.” A long row of buses lined the sidewalk. The people disembarking from them formed a great milling crowd. Policemen stood on all sides, yelling and pushing everyone toward the open stadium doors.
The driver of our bus shouted. People began to step off.
“I can’t do this,” I said.
Sara squeezed my arm. “You can, Miri. Make that choice. Vern heldishe,” she said. Be brave. My mother’s words. She looked around. “You may have to pretend to be someone else for a while,” she added. “But you will remember who you really are.” She put her hand on my forehead. “Yivarechecha Adonai v’yishmerecha. May God bless and protect you. It was the Hebrew prayer my parents said over me every Shabbos.
My stomach clenched. My lungs collapsed. I tried to take a deep breath but I couldn’t. I held out my hands. “Nora, Nora,” I managed to whisper. “Come to me. Your mama needs to carry the suitcase.” I scooped her into my arms. “Good girl! Lovely Nora. My little sister Nora.”
Nora started to protest. She reached for her mother. I hung on to her and blew a raspberry kiss against her belly.
Nora laughed. Madame Rosenbaum’s—Sara’s—hand fluttered over my forehead and caressed Nora’s cheek one last time. She grasped her satchel and pushed past me, walking off the bus with her chin raised. She did not look back. I settled Nora more firmly on my hip, lifted my own trembling chin, and followed.

Reviews

*An Indie Next Pick*

"Historical fiction at its finest. Two-time Newbery honoree Bradley is at her best here; this is a novel that brings layers of the past to life [and showcases] the author’s expertise as a gifted storyteller. [Her] latest masterpiece features a determined and daring heroine . . . Readers will be wholeheartedly rewarded." —School Library Journal (starred review)

"This poignant story moves quickly but takes care to consider with sensitivity the excruciating choices Miri must make at every turn as she’s torn between choosing safety and honoring her heritage and her convictions. A gripping, humane tale that examines what war demands of children and what it costs them." —Kirkus (starred review)

“Bradley has crafted a compelling historical novel told in Miri’s apposite first-person voice. The book has a hint of magic that . . . becomes as satisfying as the whole of this fine novel.”Booklist

“Engaging [and] imaginative . . . Miri’s vulnerability and sense of responsibility give [the story] emotional weight and contemporary appeal.” —The Horn Book

“Poses thoughtful questions about religious divides and parallels through the experiences of 12-year-old Miriam Schreiber, a German Jew [in 1942 France.] Miri’s highly credible emotions and actions make for a deeply sympathetic character facing increasingly dangerous and suspenseful circumstances.” —Publishers Weekly

Author

© Amy MacMurray
Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is the two-time Newbery Honor winning and #1 New York Times bestselling author of several acclaimed middle grade novels, including Fighting WordsThe War That Saved My Life, The War I Finally Won, and Jefferson’s Sons. She and her husband have two grown children and live with their dog, several ponies, a highly opinionated mare, and a surplus of cats on a fifty-two acre farm in Bris­tol, Tennessee. Visit her at kimberlybrubakerbradley.com. View titles by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley