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My Mother’s Secret by J.L. Witterick

This secret is deadly.

Interests/Topics: The Holocaust, moral courage, family relationships, romance

Curriculum Connections: World History

Gender: F/M

Age: 12+


Blurb: A dairy farm has the best hiding places for hide-and-go-seek (although you should probably avoid being too close to a cow…don’t let those big gentle eyes fool you). In the decade of summers we spent on our grandpa’s farm, my cousins, sister, and I explored every inch of the haymow, corn crib, grain bin, and barn. We could hide for hours and not come out, and usually only revealed ourselves when mom yelled that we had 10 seconds to get inside for dinner or else.

Like most kids, I longed for summer to last forever. We had the freedom to roam, act out elaborate stories (Charlie’s Angels had nothing on us), and most of all, enjoy being children. The childhood of two young Jewish boys in My Mother’s Secret is radically different, however. For them, Franciszka’s Polish farm is simply a place to hide from the Nazis. It is not a place for fun and games, and being found means being killed. My childhood utopia is a mirror image of their dark and silent prison.

Franciszka’s daughter wants nothing more than to escape the horrors of war by marrying her fiancé. But without her daughter’s help, Franciszka’s secret will certainly be discovered.

What do you do when every choice you make is a matter of life or death?

Flavour: “It’s hard to say how we become the people we do. My mother believes that it comes from our choices. She says, ‘If you choose to do the right thing, it’s a conscious decision at first. Then it becomes second nature. You don’t have to think about what is right, because doing the right thing becomes who you are, like a reflex. Your actions with time become your character.’” (10)

“At times I resent that she has hidden these families. There are nights when I wake up sweating with nightmares of German soldiers breaking down our door.” (33)

“People are like water in a pond, where you cannot see the bottom. You think you know where it is shallow and where it is deep, but it’s only when you have to dive in headfirst that you find out where it is truly deep.” (81)

“I always thought that courageous people were those who were not afraid. Meeting Franciszka and her daughter, I realize that courageous people are afraid like everyone else. They just act despite the fear.” (139)

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