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Mama

By Emilea Huff

A porcelain rooster eyed me from the corner of my room. Mama gave it to me last year for Christmas. She said she found it in a vintage shop and that it reminded her of me, because the label on the bottom said my name in pretty blue ink. I yawned, watching the sheets crease as I wiggled my toes.

I’m wearing Mama’s old nightgown and when I stand up, my head is spinning everywhere. It’s been happening a lot lately. I have to pinch my nose because I think it works so that I don’t throw up everywhere.

I don’t have school today. I don’t ever have school when I feel sick because Auntie says that’s when I need a break from life and fourth grade. I still leave the house, though, because my room smells like laundry detergent and it’s suffocating me.

I crunched a gum wrapper when I stepped on it. Cars zoomed by. I imagined that I was a giant, and every step I took was one enormous block compared to the tiny people beneath me and I felt better. Mama used to tell me that I was small as an ant but strong as an ox.

I see a little green car and now my head is spinning again. We used to have a car like that. Mama had a fluffy keychain.

The grocery store’s little bell tinkled as I entered. Auntie called me over to the counter where I met her every morning. “Hey sweetie, how are you feeling?” she asked me, handing me a bagel. I paused, picking some of the seeds off of the bagel and flinging them into the trash. I know she asked me that because I said I was sick last night, but I really wasn’t. I was thinking about Mama and her face on my pillow and my window and my mirror but that’s because I have part of her inside me. I have her inside me and she’s everywhere and I’m sick, oh no, I’m sick.

“Still sick,” I say, because I don’t want my friends to think I’m weird for crying in the bathroom again, because Mama couldn’t pick me up from school because she was gone, gone.

Sometimes I read things about Mama. She’s in the magazines so much I can’t help but read. One of the pages is taped to my wall, behind my door. I put it there because no one sees it when they open the door. Unless you count the one time Uncle Richie saw it. I still remember the way he looked at me.

He has sad eyes now– eyes that scream he has more to say, but he can’t open his mouth.

I miss Mama. I miss her because she did my laundry extra soft and sometimes put honey in my tea. I wake up in the morning and all I can think of is that rooster crowing, and all I want is Mama’s singing.

 

Book Review: “The Book Thief”

By Kaitlin Gertz 

a German girl — a hidden Jew — spoilers — many deaths — and the importance of books

I would recommend this book under the following conditions: you are 1) appreciative of good books and enjoy reading them, or are 2) a fan of crying. I am both, so this book was a win-win for me. It managed to contain a lot of drama and history into a book that seemed to just be about everyday life in Nazi Germany.

***A BRIEF SUMMARY***
The Book Thief is about a girl named Liesel Meminger.
She is, indeed, a book thief.
She is also an orphan.
It takes place in Nazi Germany, where she lives with her foster family.
They hide a Jew in their basement.

As a reader (but not thief) of books, there were many things that drew me in. First and foremost was the time period. Markus Zusak chose a time that is both highly controversial and a subject that attracts a lot of people because of the sheer amount of tragedy involved. Where there’s tragedy, there’s onlookers. The actions of the Nazis during the Holocaust killed millions of people within such a short amount of time that the general public only had a glimpse of what was really going on after so many deaths had occurred. The book juxtaposes characters who have an intimate knowledge of concentration camps and those who are a part of the oblivious general public. As a reader, it presents an interesting narrative,

You would also expect a book about the Holocaust to be from the perspective of a Jewish person. Instead, the narrator is Death, and the main character is a non-Jewish German girl. Death doesn’t even focus too much on the concentration camps. They focus on Liesel and the deaths that impact her. For example, the book starts with the death of Liesel’s brother. This event follows her into later life, and is what draws her and Hans Hubermann, her foster father, together. She has nightmares and Hans wakes her up and stays with her to make sure she’s alright. Having a foster family means Liesel is without any biological family, as neither of her parents could not care for her and her brother is dead. However, her family still exists by way of the Hubermanns, her foster family, and her friend Rudy. It was an interesting way of portraying the theme of “family is formed by choice, not birth” without saying it outright.

Another interesting technique was the narration of the book. As stated before, the narrator is Death. But Death rarely speaks. There are parts in the book where their voice is very clear: one, in the beginning, where they explain what they see when people die; two, when they describe events in the book in which Liesel has no knowledge of, like a character dying later or the background of a specific character; and three, at the end, when Liesel finally dies.

The official point of view in the story is omniscient, because Death knows all which creates 19063.jpgan interesting dynamic between what Zusak chooses for Death to reveal and what he doesn’t. For example, he reveals that Rudy, Liesel’s best friend, is going to die. For most, this is a pretty big no-no in books: you do not reveal what is going to happen at the end of the book. That ruins one of the points of reading. However, it does creates a lot of dramatic irony. We know Rudy is going to die, and that Liesel is going to be very sad and regretful that he died, but Liesel doesn’t know. In the book, Rudy is always asking for a kiss, and Liesel is always saying no. When Rudy dies, Liesel kisses his dead body. It makes an already heartbreaking event even sadder.

One thing that is stressed throughout the entire book is the importance of reading, and the importance of not just reading good books, but reading anything you can. The very beginning of the book starts out with Liesel stealing a book but having absolutely no idea how to read it. This is another way she and Hans grow closer: they read together. It also brought Max, the Jewish man the Hubermann’s were hiding, and Liesel together. Max reads with Liesel and eventually starts writing her stories.

He writes a little book called The Word Shaker, which is about the importance of words and how you use them, and how the right words can get people to side either with you or against you. It was a great metaphor for not only the world then, as Hitler’s speeches convinced so many that the Jewish race was subhuman, but for any time, as words can hurt people or weave stories or make people like you. As a writer, I loved that section. To write something that carries so much meaning is the dream, and that’s what it meant: words mean something, so make them count.

Writing also saved Liesel’s life in a very obvious way: she was in the basement writing when her town was bombed. As a result, she was not impacted by the physical devastation. Instead, she had to deal with the aftermath, in which Max comes back for her after the concentration camps were freed. It was a very heart-wrenching, but tied up way of ending the story.

I’m going to end this review the same way I thought the book ended: unnecessarily. In the book, it skips a few decades to Liesel’s death. While I understand that the narrator is Death and that’s what they do, it didn’t seem to fit well with the story. I appreciated knowing Liesel turned out okay, but having Max and Rudy’s dad come back already kind of signaled that. I would have preferred to fill in the blanks myself. I would have also preferred to end this in a better way.

Kaitlin Gertz is a Sophomore at Barbara Ingram