Review: Greenhorn

Posted on June 5, 2013

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greenhorn coverGreenhorn
Written by Anna Olswanger
Illustrated by Miriam Nerlove
NewSouth Books
48 pages

In 1946, 20 boys arrive at the yeshiva (Jewish school) in Brooklyn and the other students are not happy. The dorm rooms and classrooms are already crowded. But these boys are not ordinary students. They came all the way from Poland because their parents died in concentration camps.

This story focuses on Aaron, Ruben, and Bernie and their new roommate Daniel. The other boys nickname him “greenhorn” because he’s the new kid. They call Aaron “Gravel Mouth” because he stutters. He feels a connection to Daniel because he doesn’t speak English. Daniel’s only possession is a tin box and everyone wants to know what’s inside. When Aaron and his friends uncover the mystery they also learn a larger-than-life lesson in human suffering and hope.

Using common aspects of middle school life – friendship, fitting in, and bullying – Anna Olswanger creates a familiar setting to introduce young readers to the horrors of the Holocaust. Miriam Nerlove’s warm illustrations portray life in the yeshiva with just the right touches of mood and presence. The back end glossary, plus the classroom and discussion guides found at Olswanger’s website enhance the book’s educational value. Above all, Greenhorn is a profoundly moving portrait of a painful part of human history.

Copyright (c) 2013 by Peggy Tibbetts

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