#BookReview: Beyond Belief by Dee White

#BookReview

Beyond Belief, Dee White (author), Scholastic, April 2020.

Blurb:

Inspired by the true story of Muslims who saved the lives of Jewish children in the Second World War.
In 1942, in the Grand Mosque in Paris, 11 year-old Ruben is hiding from the Nazis. Already thousands of Jewish children have disappeared, and Ruben’s parents are desperately trying to find his sister.
Ruben must learn how to pass himself off as a Muslim, while he waits for the infamous Fox to help him get to Spain to be reunited with his family. One hint of Ruben’s true identity and he’ll be killed. So will the people trying to save him.
But when the mosque is raided and the Fox doesn’t come, Ruben is forced to flee. Finding himself in the south of France, he discovers that he must adjust to a new reality, and to the startling revelation of the Fox’s true identity.

Review:

A fresh perspective and a deeply affecting story of the survival of young Ruben, and his quest to be reunited with his family during the atrocities of the Second World War.

With all the current controversy surrounding deep-rooted historical inequalities, it is so important for our younger generation to not only remember, but also to grasp a handle on how history plays a part in our future. I applaud Dee White for bringing forth this monumental piece of the past to bridge the education gap, with a literary charm that keeps her readers on tenterhooks from start to end. White’s personal connection further enhances the novel’s authenticity, rawness and provocation; her ancestors’ experiences leading her to direct sources of information, and the very setting in Paris itself. This story is personal to me, too; my own grandparents having fled from Germany with many of their loved ones stolen by the Holocaust. I felt Ruben’s pain. I felt his fear, his uncertainty, his hope, his naivety, and his strength. Dee White encapsulates this 11-year-old’s every sense whereby readers of his age, and beyond, will be able to understand, to empathise, and perhaps even connect with in their own way.

Beyond Belief is an eye-opening narrative fiction based on real events; where the Muslims’ safe haven in the Grand Mosque in Paris hid Jewish children at the height of the Nazi regime. The underlying foundations of different religions; whether that be Jewish, Muslim, Christian or other, are parallel to the central themes of reflection, acceptance, tolerance and harmony. This during a time when it was so easy to ‘hate’ – here, there is nothing but peace and love shining through. Upon being left at the mosque by his desperate parents, Ruben is now addressed as Abdul; an adopted new ‘identity’ to keep him safe from the Nazi SS. I really admired Ruben, and White’s portrayal of him – a brave, honourable and loyal personality, both in religion and in friendship. He embraces the ways of Islam, but fiercely holds on to his Jewishness; through remembering his father’s teachings, and with the physical reminder of the Star of David cotton badge he refuses to part with, despite its danger in revealing his true identity. Desperate to find his family (supposedly in Spain), Ruben can no longer await the saviour of the elusive ‘Fox’. Luckily, he is able to escape the hands of the German soldiers, and along with the other Jewish children – namely Hana and young Momo – they travel relentlessly for hours through underground sewers to inside barrels across the river and through the countryside in the south of France; a journey that is fraught with peril, terror and agony.

White’s narrative pays respectful homage to the sacrifices and heroism of the victims and saviours, against the cruelty and incomprehensible undertaking of the German Reich dictatorship during the early 1940s. And at the same time, delivers an astounding, gripping, heartbreaking read for a middle-grade audience; a real asset to add to the archives of history and the treasures of literature. This novel; Beyond Belief: ‘Heroes of the Holocaust’, comes highly recommended.

Review by Romi Sharp.

Thank you, Dee, for ‘Ruben’s’ story x

Visit Dee White’s website for watch a reading of Beyond Belief, read by her son.

Beyond Belief is available to purchase at Scholastic | Booktopia

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