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Clara’s War

by Kathy Kacer

Clara’s War, the first book in Second Story Press’s new Holocaust Remembrance Series for Young Readers, is an auspicious start. Kathy Kacer, whose first book, The Secret of Gabi’s Dresser, won the Silver Birch Award and the Jewish Book Award, has written an outstanding novel for older readers that chronicles the creation of an amazing artistic event that happened in Czechoslovakia during the Second World War.

Imprisoned with 40,000 other Jews in the ghetto of Terezin, and separated from her family, the fictional 13-year-old Clara has the chance to participate in the children’s opera Brundibar, which was secretly mounted by the composer, Hans Krása, and a group of talented Jewish artists, musicians, and performers. Kacer doesn’t spare readers from the sheer horror of life in the ghetto or from the prospects of what lay beyond Terezin in the death camps that were the final destination of Terezin’s inmates. But in telling the story of Brundibar and giving readers a glimpse of the incredible artistic life that was secretly fostered in the ghetto, Kacer’s novel is also a story of hope, courage, and humanity in the face of overwhelming suffering and adversity.

Kacer provides readers with plenty of information about the camp and its inmates in a preface and an author’s note. Also included are a map of the camp and historical black-and-white photographs of the production of Brundibar, which had more than 50 performances at Terezin between 1943 and 1945. Deftly capturing the essence of this amazing historical event, Clara’s War is a splendid addition to fictional explorations of the Holocaust.