Friday, February 21, 2014

Stefania's dancing slippers by Jennifer Beck illustrated by Lindy Fisher

When I read this book aloud later this year to our senior students I am going to add one word to the final page.

Stefania's dancing slippers is set during the Second World War. Stefania and her mother are forced to flee their home as war threatens their home in Poland.  The Russian soldiers arrive and the pair have only a few minutes to pack their bags with food and blankets.  Stefania can only take one treasure.  She quickly tucks a pair of precious dancing slippers, made by her mother when she was just five years old, into her coat pocket.  Their journey takes them to Siberia and then later Stefania travels on alone to Persia.  This land also becomes unsafe and so the children travel by ship first to India and then onto New Zealand.

The story ends with her arrival in New Zealand.  An author note at the end of the book explains in 1944 over 700 Polish refugee children and their caregivers were welcomed to New Zealand.  Stefania arrives alone but eventually hears her father is coming.  He carries with him the lost dancing slipper.  "Your mother sent it for you. She wrote that she hopes to join us some day."  I thought this sounded so sad.  I want the ending to be more hopeful.  Surely Stefania's mother will come so I am planning to add the word soon to this final quote.

The illustrations in this book are almost tactile.  Lindy Fisher uses lace, music scores, confetti and ribbons in her exquisite collages.  You might also like to read My Dog by John Heffernan or The Angel with the mouth Organ by Cristobel Mattingley.

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