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My Canary Yellow Star

by Eva Wiseman

Marta Weisz, daughter of a well-respected Jewish doctor, sees her world turn upside down in March 1944, when Nazi soldiers march into Budapest. Her father is sent to a work camp, her mother can find no job better than cleaner in a factory, and former friends spit on her in the street. As Marta sews yellow stars onto her clothes and works as a seamstress to help her family, she learns to expect humiliation. But at 15 she can’t believe herself to be in physical danger until she sees soldiers shoot an elderly Jewish woman dead in the street. When she learns about the Swedish passports available from someone named Raoul Wallenberg, Marta is determined that her family must get this protection.

Eva Wiseman, whose first YA novel, A Place Not Home, was shortlisted for a number of awards, uses a dispassionate first-person narrative voice that doesn’t sensationalize the horrors of the occupation of Hungary. At the same time she leaves readers in no doubt about the fear and desperation felt by Jews as the Nazis stepped up their campaign of extermination. In showing life inside an occupied country and in revealing details of how Raoul Wallenberg saved 100,000 Hungarian Jews, this novel illuminates curriculum themes of the Second World War, the Holocaust, women’s history, and heroism.