Is the chance to serve as an extra for Hitler’s favorite filmmaker a chance at life — or a detour on the path to inevitable extermination?
One ordinary afternoon, fifeen-year-old Lilo and her family are suddenly picked up by Hitler’s police and imprisoned as part of the "Gypsy plague." Just when it seems certain that they will be headed to a labor camp, Lilo is chosen by filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl to work as a film extra. Life on the film set is a bizarre alternate reality. The surroundings are glamorous, but Lilo and the other extras are barely fed, closely guarded, and kept in a locked barn when not on the movie set. And the beautiful, charming Riefenstahl is always present, answering the slightest provocation with malice, flaunting the power to assign prisoners to life or death. Lilo takes matters into her own hands, effecting an escape and running for her life. In this chilling but ultimately uplifting novel, Kathryn Lasky imagines the lives of the Gypsies who worked as extras for the real Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, giving readers a story of survival unlike any other.
About the Author
People often ask Newbery Honor winner Kathryn Lasky how and why she writes both fiction and nonfiction. The author, who has written more than forty books, answers, “I am equally attracted to both types of writing because for me the most important thing is if a story is real. Real stories can be either fiction or nonfiction.”
Kathryn Lasky’s nonfiction books for young readers are certainly diverse in subject, ranging from wildlife photography to weaving, maple syrup, and paleoanthropology. Often collaborating with her husband, filmmaker and photographer Christopher G. Knight, the author has created several acclaimed photographic essays for children. One of them, Interrupted Journey: Saving Endangered Sea Turtles, takes the reader on a riveting tour from Cape Cod, where an endangered Kemp’s ridley turtle is found, to the Gulf of Mexico, where these turtles will eventually return to lay their eggs. “Even in my nonfiction books,” the author says, “telling a story is more important than reciting the facts.”
One true story Kathryn Lasky heard as a little girl inspired Vision of Beauty: The Story of Sarah Breedlove Walker, her biography of the daughter of former slaves who, through sheer tenacity, founded a successful line of hair products for African American women. “When I was growing up in Indianapolis, I loved having a lemonade stand,” the author recalls. “One of my early memories is coming into the kitchen with a jar full of money and my mother exclaiming, ‘Goodness, Kathryn, maybe you’ll grow up to be the next Madam Walker!’” The author says that she was drawn to write another biography, A Voice of Her Own: The Story of Phillis Wheatley, Slave Poet, because she was fascinated by the relationship between the writer’s voice, her identity as a slave, and freedom.
Kathryn Lasky’s fiction for children includes such humorous books as the award-winning Lunch Bunnies, Show and Tell Bunnies, Science Fair Bunnies, as well as the newest addition, Tumble Bunnies. These books, she says, are “part of the continuing saga of the problems that loom large in the lives of first graders as they try to figure out their world.” She also authored the picture book Love That Baby!, a must-read for any child with a new baby in his or her life.
“I am sure a lot of folks must think I’m rather scattered doing all these different books,” Kathryn Lasky admits. “But to me, the whole part of being an artist is to get up every morning and reinvent the world.” Kathryn Lasky and her husband live in Cambridge, Massachusetts.