Dewey and Sarah’s Key

October 17, 2008 at 5:29 pm (Uncategorized)

I read these two, one right after the other, in two days. They both hard to put down! What’s funny though, is one is light and has laugh out loud moments, the other was darker and made me want to cry instead. With that said…

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron

Dewey is one lucky cat. He was stuffed into a library book drop box on the coldest night of the year. He’s lucky because for the next two decades almost, he finds a wonderful home in the Spencer Library. Unlike most cats that remain aloof, deeming you unworthy of their royal attention, Dewey is exactly the opposite. He greets patrons at the door, likes to be held over a person’s left shoulder, and will take naps in laps.

Spencer is a town down on it’s luck for economic reasons, and the library wasn’t that great of a spot to go to. Dewey’s arrival helped to usher in some changes for the town and its residents. Word got out that the library has a kitten in residence, and the folks were compelled to check it out. Dewey won almost all of them over. I remember there was an instance where one particular woman kept threatening to parade her cow in the town if the cat wasn’t removed. He never left, and she never made an appearance with her cow.

Throughout the book, Vicki explains the trials that she, Dewey, and the town faced, and how Dewey, in one way or another, helped. He helped bring in more patrons, which in turn helped convince the higher ups to renovate the library. He provided friendly competition, by deciding which lap to plop himself on. He helped one mentally disabled child come out of her shell a bit, and he’s patient with the little ones. And of course, he provided hours of entertainment. He napped in boxes too small to fit his entire body, he played hide and seek, and climbed overhead light fixtures.

It’s a charming book, and it shows how something so small can make such a huge impact.

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

This was such a sad book! Sarah and her family are French Jews during the WWII. It’s told in two ways : through Sarah herself, and through a reporter, Julia, covering an article of the 60th anniversary of the event, the Vel’ d’Hiv’.

It takes place during the Holocaust, in France. Sarah is a French born Jew, and she’s only 10 years old. French police have been arresting Jewish men, so there’s fear among the Jews, causing the men to leave, or hide at night. One night, the police come to Sarah’s home, but this time they come for the entire family. Sarah, unknowing of what’s really going on, ferrets her 4 year old brother into a secret compartment and locks it, promising to let him out soon. She thinks they will return for breakfast and all will be normal. So begins the horrific event that still shames France.

All of the Jewish families gathered that night are brought to the Vel’ d’Hiv’. They are crammed in their like cattle, with no food or water, for days. When Sarah’s father realizes what she did with her brother, he knows what you, the reader know – the child will die. After a few days of starvation, they are herded onto trains and taken to the idyllic countryside, to a holding camp. The men are the first to go, almost immediately. Shortly after, the children are taken, despite the screaming of the women, and their heads are shaved. By this time, Sarah is desperate to get back to her brother.

She manages to escape, and with the help of an elderly couple, she makes her way back home to hoorifying results.

Julia is married to a chauvinistic French man. He’s rude and uncouth, but always apologetic and great in bed. After learning of her article, he tells her to forget it, it’s old news. Like a good reporter, she starts doing research into the event, and seeks out witnesses and survivors. After a strange conversation with her grandmother-in-law, she starts to realize that her in-laws may have a story to tell about that time period. They just don’t want to discuss it. After some digging around, she comes across information about Sarah’s family, and she starts to unfold the events that transpired after Sarah’s discovery.

The story doesn’t get any better. It remains just as sad. It’s a well written book, and to answer one of the reading group questions in the back, I preferred Sarah’s voice. Hearing the events from a 10 year old makes it even more powerful. An adult knows what’s going on, and they will try to protect the children from it. For the children, there is only fear. They get ripped from the familiar, forced to endure the hardships of starvation and pitiful living conditions. They are forcibly separated from their parents, their rock and anchor, forced to become orphans and fend for their selves. It’s a lot more depressing and shameful.

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2 Comments

  1. bermudaonion said,

    I can’t wait to read Dewey!

  2. Michele @ Reader's Respite said,

    I just loved Sarah’s Key….so sad but very real.

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