During World War II, a 15-year-old girl meets a young Jewish refugee in a New York shelter and soon learns the history behind her city through interaction with her new friend, as well as the barriers that exist when different cultures unite. Winner of the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction.
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Star-crossed lovers are the stuff of romantic dreams, but in Two Suns in the Sky Miriam Bat-Ami pursues this theme in an unlikely setting: the grim refugee camp at Oswego, New York, during World War II. Chris Cook, 15, is fed up with the boring town of Oswego but is fascinated by the exotic strangers living so close by. She and her friends sneak into the camp where she meets Adam Bornstein, a Yugoslavian Jew. "For stony limits cannot hold love out," says Shakespeare, and neither can the quarantine fences around the Emergency Refugee Shelter. The two fall passionately in love, in spite of their differences of language and religion--and the angry resistance of Chris's father to anything "foreign." Their voices, as distinctly different as their cultures, alternate in telling the story of their ill-fated attraction.
Miriam Bat-Ami, like Norma Fox Mazer in Good Night, Maman, has drawn on a forgotten piece of American history for her setting: the Emergency Refugee Shelter, the U.S. government's sole attempt to rescue Jews fleeing Hitler's persecution. Bat-Ami captures the collision of cultures in not only the poignant love story, but in the complex emotions of the townspeople, whose good will is tempered by a naive suspicion of strangers, and in the mixed feelings of the refugees themselves, whose gratitude for a place of warmth and shelter is dimmed by their frustration at finding themselves corralled behind barbed wire in the supposed land of the free. Quotations from former residents of the camp and a substantial Author's Note add to the strong authenticity of this intriguing novel. (Ages 11 to 15) --Patty CampbellFrom School Library Journal:
Grade 8 Up-During World War II, a group of European refugees are sent to Oswego, NY. The story is told through the eyes of Adam Bornstein, a 15-year-old Jewish boy from Croatia; and Chris Cook, a 15-year-old Catholic Irish-American girl. Adam is, of course, confused by the new country, but he's also achieved a certain wariness and street smarts through his experiences. Chris, on the other hand, is a naive and bored teenager for whom the war is mostly a distant abstraction. The young people come alive through the author's effective, alternating first-person narrations through which readers gain a sense not only of the characters' feelings, but the feelings of the two different communities as well. Eventually, Chris and Adam are attracted to one another, which leads to hands groping under sweaters and two socks removed. Chris's father reacts negatively to this relationship and kicks his daughter out of the house. This leads the teens to take a day trip to New York City (upon her return, Chris is forgiven). However, the love story is really secondary to the story of two communities adjusting to one another: the refugees living in barracks must learn about Americans; the residents of Oswego must learn to live with the refugees in their midst. These trials and adjustments are particularly well conveyed. This is a fine novel based, in part, on real-life incidents now more than 50 years passed, but still relevant today.
Todd Morning, Schaumburg Township Public Library, IL
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