“This book is about impossible and wondrous things that never happened, set against a backdrop of impossible, unthinkable things that did,” is the opening line written by the incredibly creative author Neal Shusterman. He couldn’t have described this book more perfectly or more succinctly than he did in his introduction to this powerful and fantastic story.
Each chapter begins with a single Hebrew letter, which at the back of the book are defined for the reader. Every letter’s spiritual meaning and its connection to the story that unfolds afterwards is shared. This is a truly beautiful addition to not only the overall story but in connecting even more historical information to the fiction tales.
The book opens with a story of the harsh reality of trying to survive World War II under the Nazi regime. Jewish sisters, Anna, Gretchen, and Katja are hiding in an upstairs room with food that is being delivered to them until a terrible incident cuts this supply off. While the sisters are starting to get more desperate for food, mysterious and magical occurrences are happening to the window of their apartment. Each major chapter ends with non-fiction historical facts about real life examples that are connected to what has happened in the chapter’s story that precedes it. This book covers stories of heroism, incredible risks people took for strangers, and horror stories from places like the concentration camps of Treblinka, and Auschwitz.
Andres Vera Martinez does an incredible job of illustrating Shusterman’s words to bring these stories to life. The two work so well together, you would think it was one person who was writing and illustrating this book. This pair work to seamlessly sew fantasy images and historical pictures together into one cohesive unit. The detail, extensive shading, and choice of colors add atmosphere and draw the reader in deeper.
This well researched work of fiction blended with factual content is appropriate for 12 year olds and teens and adults alike will certainly be equally captivated by this story. This is a very well written and highly researched work, complete with a bibliography at the back. Readers will fly through the attention grabbing pages and learn something along the way. I can’t recommend this book enough.
Courage to Dream: Tales of Hope in the Holocaust
By Neal Shusterman
Art by Andrés Vera Martínez
Publisher Age Rating: 12+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Middle Grade (7-11), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)