There’s a few things I liked about this novel before I even opened it up. First, the cover caught my eye as I was scanning books at the library for inventory last week. The pain and the emptiness that is etched onto his face, the clothing that is fastened onto his body and those shoes, his shoes that are way too big for such a young child. It was Donna Napoli’s name on the cover that struck another chord in my mind, for I had read another one of her novels, one that I will never forget. It was The Wager and with that, I knew I had to read this.
This was nothing like The Wager, this story centers on a group of Italian boys who had decided to attend an American movie in a town not too far from where they lived. Italy had just declared war on America and many older individuals were off serving their country. The movie had started when suddenly it got dark and German soldiers entered, ushering everyone out. Separated into groups, the four boys found themselves in a train car being driven farther from home. Amongst the four boys is a Jew, his star is back home and his identity is hidden for now. They have become prisoners, they are still boys yet they are working like men. They act alone but they are not alone.
I like Donna’s writing, it’s carefree and effortless. I enjoyed the friendships and all the individuals that appeared within the novel. Everyone is acting alone, everyone wants what is best for them and friendship is not a priority for anyone. Making it to another day, is what is important and the connections the boys had with others had to be adjusted to account for this attitude. I felt that it was these connections that the boys had to these individuals that made the novel, I looked forward to where their travels would take them, always hoping that as they traveled, the war would end and they could go back home. This was a fast-moving story and I am glad that I picked it up. I think my favorite part was the sled. I smiled as I imaged what they must have looked like as they walked out of that village, their sled, the sled piled high with treasures.