This fictionalized version of real events follows Zlatka and Fania as they attempt to survive Auschwitz-Birkenau. The two form a friendship and become like sisters as they face the horrors of the Holocaust. One year, for Fania’s birthday, Zlatka and some of the other prisoners make a tiny stitched paper heart full of birthday wishes and hope. An act of love and rebellion, this paper heart helps the girls survive the unimaginable.
This novel in verse succeeds on many levels. Painstakingly researched, this fictional take on true events will keep readers riveted to the page. The verse works exceedingly well, trading off perspectives between the two girls. While there are moments where it is hard to distinguish between the two voices, the verse is on the whole gorgeous, sparse, and haunting.
Because the paper heart is a real artifact, it helps tie the story together without feeling overly sentimental. The poems use real bits of the wishes transcribed on the paper, making the story all the more authentic and poignant. This is a harrowing tale that is sure to bring forth the tears. It is also a story of hope and the amazing power of the human spirit.
This is a great addition to library shelves and will lend itself well to social studies classrooms as well. It’s an accessible novel with a lasting effect on its readers. Recommended.
Paper Hearts by Meg Wiviott. Simon & Schuster: 2015. Library copy.