Saturday, November 19, 2011
I Will Come Back for You, written and illustrated by Marisabina Russo. Schwartz & Wade, Random House. 2011. $19.99 ages 5 and up
It is Nonna's voice we hear throughout this book. Her granddaughter's questions are the impetus for telling of her life before now. Her charm bracelet provides a reminder of the memorable events of that life.
"My Nonna changes her jewelery every day, but there is one bracelet she always wears. It is a charm bracelet, a gift from my mama."
Nonna explains why she never takes it off:
"Because the charms remind me of long ago when I was a little girl," she says. " Shall I tell you their story?"
It is time...she begins telling her beloved granddaughter (and creator of this book) of those charms and their importance to her. Her early life was spent in Rome. Her mother would take the children to the park where they spent time together, happy and content. The first charm is the donkey, who pulled the cart for them in that park. Their days and evenings were filled with family time, and great delight.
As the Nazis rose to power, that idyllic life changed as it did for all Jews living in Italy at the time. Papa was rounded up and the children could only see him on weekends. It was a long trip to the mountains where he was staying. Throughout the day they had time to visit, but Papa could not stay with them overnight. The separation lasted for a long and interminable time. When Papa learned of imminent danger for the Jews in that village, he fled higher into the mountains.
Life did not get better. Conditions became more dangerous all the time. It was only with the help of generous and kind people that Papa, then Mamma, and finally the children found safety and the hope that they might be reunited one day. Papa does not come back to them. He was killed while fighting the Germans. Following the war, a return to Rome proved there was nothing left for the family there. The three sailed to America...Mamma, Nonna and her brother, Roberto. The boat is her final charm.
"Isn't that a long story for such a simple charm bracelet?'
This family story rings with authenticity and great meaning for the author; yet, it is not emotional or insincere. It is a story of family love, of overcoming obstacles, of finding new direction. Marisabina Russo adds an afterword that sets her story in history, explaining the events that led to her sharing it with us. The photos and captions that she includes on the endpapers lend a personal and heartfelt feel to her Nonna's remembrances.