In Shanghai’s Hongkew district, two boys, one German-Jewish, one Chinese, share in the celebration of their two harvest holidays, Sukkot and the Moon Festival.
Having fled Berlin with his family in advance of the Holocaust, 10-year-old Marcus is trying to make the best of their exile in the crowded Jewish neighborhood that’s nestled in the bustling Chinese city. While most of his fellow yeshiva students keep to themselves, Marcus makes a new friend, Liang, bonding despite language and cultural differences. When autumn holidays approach, Marcus explains the tradition of building a sukkah, or traditional ceremonial hut, and happily accepts Liang’s offer of help in its construction, though he’s disappointed that the family’s poverty means they can’t use fruits and vegetables to decorate it. Seeing his friend’s sadness, Liang invites Marcus to experience the Moon Festival, with its colorful red lanterns, moon-shaped cookies, and games. Liang’s idea to decorate the sukkah with bright lanterns provides a welcome bridge between the two cultures. Tsong uses lithographs to create a layered, textured look, employing dark, drab hues to depict the poverty-stricken tenement district and vivid greens and red-orange tones for the sukkah and its lanterns. Hyde’s straightforward text assumes basic understanding of the Holocaust, focusing on Marcus’ experiences in Shanghai.
While both holidays are but lightly sketched, themes of friendship and respect across cultures are compelling.(historical note) (Picture book. 5-8)