The Girl Who Sang by Estelle Nadel

Note: I occasionally accept review copies from the publisher. Posts written from review copies are labeled. All opinions are my own. Posts may contain affiliate links. I may receive compensation for any purchased items.

The Girl Who Sang by Estelle Nadel, illustrated by Sammy Savos and Bethany Strout (Roaring Brook Press, January 2024) is a graphic memoir about a very young Jewish girl surviving World War II hiding in barn. I’m always amazed at what humankind can endure and how strong children can be during hard times. The Girl Who Sang emphasized the author’s resilience and the strength she found after she was once again freed from hiding and able to sing in her joy.

Enia (Estelle’s Polish name) was just a preschool child when the war began, and so she did not have the chance to attend school before life changed dramatically in her small town in Poland. She and her brothers end up the only ones from their family to survive the war, and it is only due to the kindness of neighbors who hide them in the attic barn, amazingly hiding their presence from the father of the house for more than a year before he discovers and supports them as well. Following the war, the book travels to New York and eventually to the author’s own adulthood, to show just how far she has come.

The illustrator wonderfully captured the events of the book in graphic novel format, with a clear sense of place that helped the reader recognize the community and the children’s place in it. Although the book dealt with difficult issues and there are bloody scenes depicting some of the events, in general, the color tone and narration remains child-friendly. The illustrator nicely captures Enia’s various emotions and brings the story to life. I loved how, after the war, as Enia (now Estelle) did things familiar to her like cooking the borscht, the outline of her mother smiled on her, an echo of her very early years with her dear mother.

It is hard to imagine being confined to an attic for years. Enia/Estelle’s story is amazing. That said, because life is not neat and tidy, the graphic memoir did lack a little bit of continuity. I felt there could have been more emphasis on Estelle’s singing after the war (as the end note says she did). It was disappointing that she never ends up living with her older brothers again, after there is so much emphasis on how they needed each other. Further, the recovery years after the war seemed rushed through in order to get to that great last story.

There was some resolution in The Girl Who Sang, but as with life, there were still many loose ends at the end. I can’t fault the book for that. That is, unfortunately, what happens when a childhood is spent in such a traumatic situation. People are never quite the same and it can’t be wrapped up with a bow in a true memoir. I’m just glad that even with her trauma, she could still become a girl who sang.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advance review copy of this book provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Reviewed on January 10, 2024

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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