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Good Night, Maman

af Norma Fox Mazer

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315561,986 (3.63)2
After spending years fleeing from the Nazis in war-torn Europe, twelve-year-old Karin Levi and her older brother Marc find a new home in a refugee camp in Oswego, New York.
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Karin Levi’s letters to her mother are the window into her soul. She can express her deepest feelings only to her mother, even though she can’t be with her. Even though she loves her brother dearly, there are certain things she can’t express to him and finds herself dealing with feelings of rebellion, anger and jealousy toward him. As Marc himself says, he is being Maman, which allows Karin to express these feelings, all part of changing from a young girl into a young woman. And in, the end they become even closer when he finally admits to Karen, and to himself, that their mother has died.
The incredibly difficult life she has led has become part of who she is and has profoundly affected her in many ways. When she visits an American house for the first time, the things she notices most are potential hiding places. Yet, in spite of that, her spirit moves her forward and she is able to develop friendships with many of the people in the refugee camp and later, with her American friend, Peggy.
In spite of the tragic cause of her journey to America, the book contains humor, too, such as the scene where Marc is breezing through Grapes of Wrath and Karin is struggling with Daddy-Long-Legs. She takes a break from the difficult reading to listen to Marc’s description of the Joads.
“Who are these people?” I kept my finger in my place, so it wouldn’t look as if I was just trying to pass time. (p. 101)
Her struggles in learning a new language and especially in learning the American slang that Peggy teaches her are at once poignant and funny.
Trudi began singing, her way of going past nervousness. “’Who is Sylv…iaaa,’” she sang, “’that all the swains adore her?’”
“’Swains’?” Marika said. “What is it?”
Trudi shook her head and kept singing.
“Pigs,” I said. “You know.” I made pig sounds.
“’All the pigs adore her,’” Marika sang. “Sure.Okay.” (pp. 111-2)
Karin learns that anti-semitism exists in America, too, when she meets her classmate, Zoey (p. 124). And she is made aware of her differentness when all of the other students in her class stand to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to a country that is not hers (p. 120). She expresses the same feeling at Peggy’s Thanksgiving dinner when the family prays to a G-d that is not hers (p. 141). But when her brother encourages her to attend Rosh Hashanah services with him in honor of their mother, she discovers new meaning in them and a sense of belonging. I was very touched by this book and came away with the feeling that only a young person could have overcome such tragic events and still had the openness of mind and heart to embrace so many totally foreign experiences in such a short time. It speaks to the resilience of youth and delivers a very hopeful message in the context of one of the darkest moments in world history. It is tragic that such a small number of refugees had the second chance at life that Karin was afforded. ( )
  tonawandagirl | Jan 21, 2012 |
This book introduces the reader to a family torn apart as German soldiers take over Paris. The interesting event in this book is the opportunity the children get to travel by ship to the United States. The Jewish refugees will stay at Fort Ontario in Oswego, New York. Once again I am reminded of my lack of knowledge regarding historical events! I had no idea that this ever happened! Woe is me! As the children become familiar with their new surroundings, the tragedies they experienced leave their mark on Karin. She finally admits to Marc, her brother, that she is afraid he will desert her as he becomes assimilated into the American culture. The scars left on Karin’s psyche by the Germans serve to bring her and Marc closer together in the end.
Library Implications: This book is a great tool for teaching the events occurring in Oswego when Jewish refugees escape the United States. I think many students will be surprised to find out that this actually happened and how Americans interacted with these people. The story of Karin’s family in Europe is also compelling as they travel by night to find a safe refuge from the Germans. ( )
  mathqueen | Mar 6, 2010 |
When the Nazis take over France, Marc and Karin spend a year in hiding with their mother. As the danger of discovery intensifies, they escape, traveling on foot and at night until their mother's strength is at an end. Karin and Marc manage to get on a ship headed for America, but they have to leave their mother behind.

A Holocaust story suitable for younger readers. ( )
  mrsdwilliams | Oct 24, 2009 |
As the darkness peeled away, I saw big flat fields, clumps of houses, trees. The sun came up. The train hooted three long hoots. All at once, a murmur went through the car. “Oswego…Oswego…” Marc and I put out faces to the dusty window. The train rolled past houses, a field, and then water spreading to the horizon. Lake Ontario—it was like an ocean. Even the lakes here were bigger than our lakes in France.
Then we saw fences, high metal feces topped with barbed wire. Everyone fell silent, until someone cursed. It sounded almost like crying. A curse, and then, “Barbed wire…”
The wheels thumped. The train slowed to a stop. We were here. ( )
  padame | Aug 27, 2007 |
A young French Jew and her brother leave their mother in France and immigrate to Canada. ( )
  SusieBookworm | Aug 17, 2007 |
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After spending years fleeing from the Nazis in war-torn Europe, twelve-year-old Karin Levi and her older brother Marc find a new home in a refugee camp in Oswego, New York.

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