Review Detail

Young Adult Fiction 1167
An Incredible Book
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0
Gerta Rausch didn’t know she was Jewish until she and her father were taken from their home in the middle of the night, packed into a train’s freight car, and taken to Theresienstadt. Papa and Gerta’s step-mother, a famous opera singer, had sheltered Gerta by homeschooling her and immersing her in musical training. In the camps, Gerta translates that training into odds-defying survival even after she’s moved to both Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen.

WHAT THE NIGHT SINGS opens with the liberation of Bergen-Belsen by British soldiers as Gerta quietly sings to her bunkmate, Rivkah, as Rivkah dies. Gerta describes herself as “…a skeleton of a sea creature, dropped in this tide pool, living, watching, still living.” The rest of the book details Gerta’s post-liberation existence in a camp for those who are displaced after the war ends and reminiscences of her life before Nazis destroyed it. The story is enhanced by the letters Gerta receives from her friend, Lev, as well as the conversations they share in which Lev details his experiences growing up in a religious community in Poland and his life in the camps.

WHAT THE NIGHT SINGS by Vesper Stamper is a brilliant book. Stamper’s writing is straightforward, powerful, and lyrical. The illustrations are stark, and they have incredible depth. The characters offer nuanced perspectives of the Holocaust and its aftermath, and though the story is dark and full of pain, loss, hatred, and sorrow, it’s also a tale of hope and love.

As we lose many of the survivors of the Holocaust, stories like the one Stamper tells are especially important, and it’s vital to get books like this one into the hands of middle grade and YA readers (though it’s certainly great for adults to read, too). I’d like to see WHAT THE NIGHT SINGS in every library and book store—there’s historical benefit, of course, and reading it while keeping global current events in mind serves as a call to action. In the words of George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Many thanks to the publisher and YA Books Central for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
Good Points
Amazing illustrations
An important story
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