Lasky (the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series) delivers a well-researched and uncompromising standalone novel focusing on the Nazi genocide of the Roma and Sinti peoples. Lilo—a Sinti girl of 15 at the beginning of the book—is taken by the Nazis when they start rounding up the Romani of Austria. Lilo’s losses mount quickly as she’s separated from her father and many of her friends; only the opportunity to be an extra in the cast of a film by Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl might save her. Along with a musically gifted boy named Django, Lilo learns the ins and outs of the concentration camps and witnesses the genocide as it affects her loved ones. Lasky’s novel is thorough in its attention to detail, mixing facts like Riefenstahl’s awful behavior toward her charges with the horrific lives of the fictional characters. Only a slightly rushed ending throws off the pace, but even then, between the constant, appalling brutality of the camps and Lilo’s growth over the years, Lasky draws remarkable depth, realism, and even charm out of a bleak story. Ages 12–up. (Oct.)
Gr 8 Up—In 1940 Vienna, 15-year-old Lilo lives with her mother and father under the watchful eyes of the Nazis, who have recently fingerprinted and identified the family as a part of the "Gypsy plague." Soon after, they are arrested and taken to jail to await deportation to an internment camp. When they are separated, Lilo and her mother are transferred to another camp where they are selected to be extras in Leni Riefenstahl's latest film. Treated as slaves, they are all at the mercy of the mercurial director, who quickly dispatches those who displease her. When her mother disappears, The teen escapes to Salzburg where she is hidden from the Gestapo but then recaptured. Facing extermination, she makes the courageous decision to escape once again, leading to her eventual rescue by Allied forces. Inspired by actual events, Lasky's intense novel exposes readers to the atrocities endured by Gypsies during World War II, specifically those who worked on the film Tiefland. Told from a third-person point of view, the story never really allows readers to feel what Lilo feels yet it manages to convey the horrors she witnesses with frightening clarity. The narrative moves briskly as characters come and go in Lilo's life, which is beneficial since many of the supporting figures are flat and indistinguishable from one another. With its abrupt ending, however, the story seems unfinished and may leave readers wondering what Lilo's future holds.—Audrey Sumser, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Mayfield, OH
The rarely told story of the Nazi genocide of the Romani people unfolds through the eyes of a heavily fictionalized "film slave," a Romani girl forced into service as an extra in a Leni Riefenstahl film. Lilo is 15 when the Nazis cart her family off to a concentration camp. She'd assumed they were safe--settled, urban, skilled Sinti, unlike Roma who traveled in caravans and were easier targets of bigotry. But there's no safety in Buchenwald or Maxglan, where her mother is the subject of sadistic procedures and her father vanishes in the night. In a stroke of luck, she's taken to be a forced extra, a film slave in the backdrop of Leni Riefenstahl's film Tiefland. Along with the other Romani imprisoned by Riefenstahl, Lilo fights to stay alive in circumstances less extreme than the camps but still horrific. Filmmaking details provide a unique flavor in a tragic story that's otherwise all too familiar. Amid death and torment, Lilo encounters unexpectedly frequent sparks of human decency. Conveyed in at-times overly expository prose, Lilo's story is fiction laid upon the life of actual Romani Holocaust survivor Anna Blach. Context is provided by a deeply problematic author's note, which dedicates more than four pages to Riefenstahl but only three sentences to the modern Romani, mentioning neither the modern reality of anti-Romani bigotry nor the simple fact that "Gypsy" (used through the note as synonymous with "Romani") is now considered pejorative and should be avoided. In the end, the touching story of survival carries readers over the occasional infelicities. (Historical fiction. 12-16)
[A] touching story of survival.
Lasky delivers a well-researched and uncompromising standalone novel focusing on the Nazi genocide of the Roma and Sinti peoples. ... Lasky’s novel is thorough in its attention to detail, mixing facts like Riefenstahl’s awful behavior toward her charges with the horrific lives of the fictional characters. … [B]etween the constant, appalling brutality of the camps and Lilo’s growth over the years, Lasky draws remarkable depth, realism, and even charm out of a bleak story.
Lasky’s introduction of a historical character, who really was Hitler’s favorite filmmaker, gives a unique twist to an otherwise oft-told tale. Her characters are well realized, as well... Touches of humor provided by a camp-smart boy offer a little relief. Above all, Lasky’s accessible style balances the grim realities of a Nazi camp with a girl’s enduring will to survive — a girl who comes of age among some of history’s greatest horrors.
Lasky has written a harrowing and deeply moving novel that focuses attention on a seldom-told story of the Nazis’ attempt to exterminate the Romani people. Thoroughly researched and insightful, the book is ideal for classroom use and discussion.
The war’s Gypsy genocide is undertreated in literature for youth, and this brings the plight of the Zigeuner during the Holocaust (or, in their terms, the devouring) into sharp relief; the irony of the layers of deception and fiction that drove the Nazi regime will not be lost on YA readers.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Inspired by actual events, Lasky’s intense novel exposes readers to the atrocities endured by Gypsies during World War II, specifically those who worked on the film Tiefland. ... [The story] convey[s] the horrors she witnesses with frightening clarity.
—School Library Journal
Exposing the experiences of non-Jews at the hands of the Nazis, Lasky spotlights a group that is rarely focused on. Lilo also experiences medical experiments, and she discovers that both good and bad Nazis exist. This book is a welcomed addition to any children’s history collection. The ability to see the Holocaust from another point of view is also a benefit, showing that it was not only the Jews who were interned and exterminated.
—Library Media Connection
This is a Holocaust narrative that is rarely told and Lasky delivers with a deft hand, powerfully and poignantly. The mix of actual history and fictional protagonist works seamlessly. ... This is absolutely a book worth reading and discussing.
—Jewish Book World
[R]ealistic dialogue and evocative imagery.
—The Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter