Cover image for Halinka
Pressler, Mirjam.
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Wenn das Gluck kommt muss man ihm einen Stuhl Hinstellen. English
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : H. Holt, 1998.
Physical Description:
214 pages ; 22 cm
While living in a home for emotionally disturbed girls in Germany just after World War II, twelve-year-old Halinka carefully hides her thoughts, feelings, and even her hopes.
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FICTION Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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This exquisite novel by one of Germany's most honored children's book authors is about an abused girl's secrets and fantasies, her dreams and lies, her enemies and friends. It is about the walls we build to protect ourselves when life is all pain, and about what happens when good fortune comes and we finally invite it in to stay.Set in a home for troubled girls in Germany just after World War II, Halinka shows another side to the Holocaust - the price paid by the Jews who were left alive. For Halinka, all politics and history - even family history - are best forgotten. Everything is best forgotten, and she dares not even think about the word "hope." But her aunt Lou, who is always hopeful, may be right.

Author Notes

Mirjam Pressler was born on June 18, 1940 in Darmstadt, Germany. She is the author of several novels that have won awards in her native Germany and also received high praise from critics after being translated into English. In Malka and Halinka Pressler focuses on young Jewish protagonists who have been forced by fate to endure the Holocaust, while in Shylock's Daughter she returns readers to fifteenth-century Italy as she attempts to answer haunting questions surrounding the motivations of characters in a popular play by William Shakespeare. While receiving notice for her novels, Pressler is most well known for her work revising the diaries of Jewish Holocaust victim Anne Frank, and she is considered an expert on Franks's life and writings. She made the finalist for the Hans Christian Andersen Awards 2016 in the author category.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 7^-10. Halinka, 12, shares a dormitory room with six girls in a welfare home in Germany in 1952. Her first-person narrative reveals the deprived child's obsession with food (butter on Sundays is a luscious luxury; a banana an exotic treat), with comfort, with privacy. Halinka struggles against racist bullies: all Gypsies steal, they taunt her; should she say she's Jewish or will that be even worse? Defensive and angry, she keeps everyone at bay, though she does nothing to stop one girl from coming to her bed for a short time. Even to herself, Halinka can barely confront the history of her mother's abuse. What keeps her going is the loving aunt who is trying to gain custody of her. The telling may be too leisurely for some readers, but, as always, Crawford's translation from the German is clear and immediate, and many will recognize the universal experience of the displaced child and her search for home. Most moving is the way that Halinka, despite herself, does open up and make a friend. --Hazel Rochman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Despite the disturbing-sounding setting‘a residence for girls in Germany shortly after the end of WWII‘this German novel is full of warmth and hope. Halinka, 12, prefers not to think about her abusive mother, and she would rather endure the other girls' taunts about her supposed Gypsy blood than tell them she is Jewish. Pressler doesn't whitewash Halinka's troubled past, but she refuses to emphasize it. She concentrates on the passage of a single week, showing the routine of the home and the interaction of the girls, all of them from damaged families. Halinka determines to win a contest to raise the most funds for a local charity (her ruses demonstrate a beyond-her-years resourcefulness); she trades punches with the class bully; she sneaks off to her private sanctuary, the luggage storeroom, in the middle of the night; she fights off her defenses to befriend a younger girl. What is remarkable is Halinka's complexity: she doesn't trust people but essentially likes them; she breaks rules and even steals yet she is basically good; she has seen too much and yet her voice is childlike. The optimistic note at the conclusion rises sturdily from Pressler's careful foundation, giving readers not a feel-good ending but something solid to feel good about. Ages 9-12. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-Halinka is a 12-year-old Polish girl who lives in a home for girls in post-World War II Germany. Almost every night, she sneaks out of her shared room to go to her secret hiding place in a storage room. There she keeps a notebook of aphorisms such as "When the thoughts are dark, there can be no light in the heart." Through vague references, readers learn that she was abused by her mother and that her Aunt Lou was denied custody because she worked the night shift. So Halinka is in her second foster home until her aunt can get married and make a home for her. When Halinka wins a fund-raising contest, her prize is a day trip to a castle and park and dinner in a restaurant. The outing is a life-changing experience and brings out the author's best writing. After Halinka becomes enchanted with a garden statue, she returns to the home a more peaceful person, aware of the beauty that exists in the world. She also shows some growth in the novel through her friendship with another youngster in the home. Unfortunately, the first-person narration moves slowly and events can only be seen from Halinka's perspective. It is dubious that she is percipient enough to analyze the other characters in the way that she does, and sometimes it seems as though the author is talking. Also, neither a sense of place nor time is clearly established, and the girl's past is never made clear, making it difficult to relate to her. While the story has merit, it is overwhelmed by its stylistic problems.-Cheri Estes, Detroit Country Day School Middle School, Beverly Hills, MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.