Review of Chance: Escape from the Holocaust

Chance: Escape from the Holocaust
by Uri Shulevitz; illus. by the author
Intermediate, Middle School    Farrar    336 pp.    g
10/20    978-0-374-31371-5    $19.99
e-book ed.  978-0-374-31370-8    $9.99

Shulevitz was just four when the Nazis invaded Poland in September of 1939, forcing his family members to flee their homeland. Thus began nearly a decade of displacement, discrimination, and hunger, as the Jewish refugee family endured the horrors of war and a tenuous peace, moving to northern Russia, Turkestan, back to Poland, and then to Germany, before settling in Paris in 1947. Despite their often-illegal status, the boy’s parents tried to scrape together a living, working any jobs they could find. Throughout the moves and various illnesses associated with subsistence living, young Uri was sustained by his mother’s stories and his greatest pleasure and solace — his near-obsessive love of drawing. This memoir, Shulevitz’s (Caldecott Medalist for The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship and three-time Honoree) first foray beyond the picture-book format, is heavily illustrated with the artist’s lively and expressive grayscale renderings (and occasional black-and-white photographs), punctuating and illuminating some of the most poignant and emotional moments in the narrative. In a number of sections, he enhances the storytelling via a series of dramatic graphic panels. Though touching on many dark and serious topics, this story is totally focused on the fears, triumphs, and sensibilities of a child. It is truly a portrait of an artist as a young man thrust into a maelstrom of a world gone mad and relying on chance to decide his fate. This thoroughly engrossing memoir will sit comfortably on a shelf with Peter Sís’s The Wall (rev. 9/07) and Allen Say’s Drawing from Memory (rev. 9/11).

From the November/December 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Luann Toth
Luann Toth

Luann Toth is a former reviews editor at School Library Journal. She holds an MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh.

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