marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

The Ark

The Ark by Margot Benary-Isbert

This is a children's book about a family living in immediately post-World War II Germany. 

It opens with Mother and three of her four (surviving) children trudging down a street, lugging down everything they own, to the house they've been billetted, to the surprise to the widow living there.  The oldest one, Matthias, is arriving with the cart of the rest of their belongings -- he, like Mother, had managed to find his way back to the family from the camp.  (As for Father, they know he's in Russia.  And one son, the twin of the main character Margret, had been shot.)

The landlady is reluctant to accept a family of five with children, but slowly -- without quite telling them -- gets reconciled with it.

So we have their adventures.  Joey, the youngest, too young to remember life before being a refugee, goes to school for the first time, and makes friends with a boy whose last name and birthday are unknown.  They do housework and endlessly borrow things from their landlady; Margret does a lot of endlessly waiting in line to find they don't have any household goods.  Andrea, the second youngest, manages to wangle a scholarship and get to go to the lycee.  Matthias ends up stuck as a mason because he can not find another job. 

They all go Christmas carolling, to find it's not a known custom, but one farm they are brought in and even given food.  Matthias and Margret have to go out again to buy potatoes, too.

With further adventures of small boys in cellars, looking for work, dealing with inconsistent electric service, and a post card delivered a year late -- a sweet tale, with many charming episodes.

Tags: children's books, fiction reviews: mundane

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