The Night of the Burning
I love stories that take place in eastern Europe. So it was a natural for me to pick up The Night of the Burning: Devorah's Story. This story begins in an orphanage in Poland but immediately the reader realizes the setting is about to change. Devorah Lerhman and her sister Nechama receive an invitation to move to a strange land – Africa.
Devorah is leery. Her life so far has been filled with loss. Why should she risk new attachments?
But there is the man with the funny hat. Mr. Ochberg has come to transport two hundred Jewish orphans to South Africa. In spite of herself Devorah is drawn to him.
And so she sets out on a journey, moving back in time even as she chooses a new future. She reflects on the early years with Mama and Papa – before typhoid fever robbed her of both parents. She relives the Night of the Burning when Aunt Friedka was killed during a pogram – an unprovoked senseless attack on the Jews in her village.
After that night, an orphanage becomes her home. It isn’t easy living in the orphanage but at least it is predictable. Traveling with Mr. Ochberg to South Africa is not. The trip is a risky one and it calls forth all of Devorah’s courage –courage to move emotionally as well as physically.
Author Linda Press Wulf snatches her readers up in the earliest pages and takes us on this journey too. We feel the forward movement as Devorah lets down her guard and learns to give and receive love again. Her ability to make us feel Devorah’s emotions is phenomenal.
Wulf is passionate about preserving stories. You feel this when Devorah says to her papa in the early part of her life – “I vow before God and before Papa that I will always remember our stories.” And again at the close of this book when she says “Mama, Papa, wake up. I need to tell you something important. It’s this: the stories won’t be forgotten….There is to be a book, a book that will tell it all.
Thanks to Linda Press Wulf for this book – The Night of the Burning -historical fiction which preserves and validates the story of Devorah Lehrman, the mother-in-law she never met.
The Night of the Burning won the Sydney Taylor Honor Award for 2007. This award recognizes the best in Jewish literature for children.