World War II has begun, and with it Adolf Hitler’s mission to purge the world of its Jewish citizenry. Ten year old Uriel watches in horror as his childhood home of Zingdorf is destroyed, taking with it many friends and family he knows he will never see again. Somehow, Uriel’s life is spared, and he encounters unexpected guides who give Uriel the task of finding the archangel Michael—who is tasked with protecting the Jews—and is currently missing. Though Uriel is not able to speak, he approaches his mission with utmost veneration as he bravely enters the world of the enemy in an attempt to save his Jewish brethren from a terrible fate.
This story takes the realities of World War II and examines them from a different angle than is traditionally done. Though there is a strong focus on religious characters and teachings, the narrative uses these more as a foundation for the tale than a means of proselytizing. Uriel is the primary focus of the novel, particularly as he fulfills the tasks set before him and braves the dangers of being in such close proximity to German soldiers. However, a second character named Uwe straddles the line between German and Jew by working as a translator for the Germans. Despite his background, Uwe finds himself struggling to stand mute while others suffer, even though speaking out will put his own life at risk. Together, Uwe and Uriel model the ways in which people can resist evil, especially when their voices are not ideal tools for doing so.
This novel is best suited to older readers both because of the intensity of the content and its overall delivery. Told much like an allegory, readers will find themselves observing events in Uriel’s present followed by relevant stories from Uriel’s past. These stories are accompanied by small illustrations that help with comprehension of the novel while providing a mental break for readers between one lengthy segment and the next. Regardless of a reader’s understanding of Judaism, Christianity, or the Holocaust itself, this book does a good job of including relevant information in a way that is informative without being belittling. The overall message is one of hope while providing an alternative explanation for why things happened the way they did during the Holocaust. This is a unique and thought-provoking story for young adult readers and adults alike.
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