Cover Image: Chance

Chance

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Member Reviews

I loved this book.  I am a long-time admirer of Uri Shulevitz, and I always wondered about his background.  He indicated in How I Learned Geography that he and his family spent  8 years in Russia as refugees during World War II and that they often had little food. This book filled in the missing pieces honestly and without self-pity. It will appeal to mature students in grades 5-9 who are interested in the Holocaust.  Two powerful themes are that art (or creativity) can save one's spirit and that so much of what happens to us in life is a matter of chance.
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Chance is a great book to give to students who enjoy books about the Holocaust, World War II, and memoirs. I enjoyed hearing Uri Shulevitz’s story and experiences as an young child during this time.
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If the name Uri Shulevitz sounds familiar to you, it is probably because he has won four Caldecott Medals in his career as a children's book writer and illustrator. What most people don't know is that Uri and his parents managed to escape the Holocaust by, as Uri writes, "blind chance deciding [their] fate." (pg 65)
Living in Warsaw, Poland with his parents, Uri is only 4-years-old and a budding artist specializing in stick figures when the Nazis begin bombing his country before they invade it. No longer feeling safe, first his father leaves and makes his way to Bialystok, then part of the Soviet Union. Finding a place to live and a job, he tries to return to his family, but is caught and returned to Bialystok. Instead of going back to them, he writes for Uri and his mother to join him. Traveling by smuggler's truck and on foot, mother and son make it to the Soviet Union, leaving all their family behind in Poland.

But when the Soviets order refugees to register for Russian citizenship, the Shulevitz family is denied because of Uri's name. The official is sure he was named after a well-known Zionist. When his father loses his job for not being a citizen, the family finds themselves without an income. Luckily, Uri's father finds another job, but soon, they are again forced to move, and find themselves in a labor camp in the Archangel region of Russia, when Uri is 5-years-old.

It is there that the Jewish people are told that they are no longer considered enemies of the Soviet Union now that the Germans are attempting to invade Russia, and that they are free to travel anywhere they wished. When Uri is 7-year-old, the family travels to Soviet Turkestan. They spend three year's there, often without any food in freezing cold winters and unbearably hoy summers, until the war finally ends. 

But just because the war is over, doesn't mean things return to what they once were. Instead, when the family goes back to Poland, they are greeted with rampant anti-Semitism and the sad news that  no other family has survived the Holocaust. Once again, they are on the move, ending up in a Displaced Persons camp in Bavaria. There, in 1946, Uri's father discovers that a brother is also still alive. and living in Paris. The Shulevitz's leave the DP camp for Paris. 

Although Uri Shulevitz's first person narrative gives a linear account of how he and his parents were lucky enough to not fall into the hands of the Germans, he does so through a series of linked vignettes and his own drawings.  And he chronicles what happened to them during that time, in such a way that it feels almost intimate, like his talking directly to you, and only you. And given how much the Shulevitz family experienced, it's hard to believe this chronicle only covers 8 years of Uri's life, from 4 to 12. 

Most of what he is relating is wrapped in anti-Semitism, hate, starvation, illness, separation and loss, but there are, of course, also moments of laughter, of kindness, of sharing and helping, reminding the reader that no matter how terrible war is, there are still some good people. What clearly stands out is just how much love this family had for each other. If they hadn't, they just might not have survived. Uri says one of the things that really sustained him was his mother's stories. And all through their ordeal, both his mother and father encouraged Uri to continue drawing.

Chance: Escape from the Holocaust is an interesting account in that it is almost devoid of Nazis. It is not the kind of Holocaust story we are accustomed to reading. But it does gives young readers yet another look at what being a Jewish family in Nazi occupied Europe and their enemy the Soviet Union was like. We keep learning more and more about the Holocaust, thanks to survivors like Uri sharing their stories. 

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an eARC gratefully received from the publisher.
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It's not the holocaust story you think of when you first hear that word. Uri's family headed deep into Soviet country to survive world war II. Holocaust education is definitely lacking, so I am all for kids picking up this book. It's easy to read and has lots of illustrations. While my digital ARC didn't display them all correctly, the ones it did show added to Uri's childhood story.
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I have long been a fan of Uri Shulvevitz's stunning picture books, and the opportunity to read his own story made me love him even more.  This autobiography is Uri's recollections of growing up in WWII Poland and his family's immigration to various other countries to avoid imprisonment or worse by Nazis.  The story is horrifying, sad, and encouraging all at once.  He explains the severe food shortages and hunger he faced which in turn caused susceptibility to serious diseases and medical issues.  Through all the hardships, drawing was the one thing that gave Uri hope and helped him through the hardships he faced growing up.

This books is a must have for middle and high school library collections.  Not only is it an excellent example of an autobiography, but it should be read by all students studying the Holocaust and World War II.
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This memorable and beautifully crafted memoir of artist and author Uri Shulevitz’s experiences during the Holocaust is an important contribution to the literature of the Holocaust. Not only does it detail the experience of Uri and his family as they leave Warsaw after it was bombed by the Germans, travel to Turkestan and suffer great hunger and hardship, but it also details the development of his artistic talent. Whether he is explaining the details of daily life, remembered episodes of his experiences, or the endless travels and fears the family lived through, I found this book engaging. Shulevitz also describes his family’s experience after the war, when they move to Paris and reunite with his father’s brother and his family. Ultimately, Uri has the opportunity to study art in New York, where he then settled. This is a story to read, remember, and return to.
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Books that tell the story of what people went through during WWII and the Holocaust are so important.  This one was from the POV of someone who had lived in Poland and fled to Russia, which is not the usual WWII Holocaust story, at least for me to read.  

The story is DARK and while it is written for more middle readers, it might not be for every one.  I would recommend adults read this first before passing on to younger readers to make sure it isn't too much for them.  What the author went through was not easy.  

The artwork was amazing and enhanced the words, which were more sparse and grim.  The chapters were short, so a quick, if not easy, read.  

Highly recommended for more mature middle readers on up.  4 solid, sad that this happened and hopefully it never will again, stars.

My thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan Children's Publishing Group for an eARC copy of this book to read and review.
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This was an excellent book. The writing and storytelling are stellar. Uri’s story is not the typical Jewish WWII story. His family was able to escape Poland before the Jews were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. They spent the early WWII years in Russia in a settlement camp. Then they traveled to Turkestan, which is modern day Kazakhstan, back to Poland after the war ended, finally settling in France for a time and then Israel for a decade.

Uri’s life was marked by hunger and illness. His saving grace was found in drawing. He would draw on walls, in the margins of newspapers, in the dirt or even in the air. His father, an artist, tried to eek out a meager existence for his family, doing whatever he could to earn barely enough for their survival. At times he repaired shoes, painted signs, worked for theaters and traveled to buy cigarettes to resell them at a profit. All throughout the struggle to survive we see their dedication to care for one another. The strength of the human spirit amazes me.

I have one caution for parents of young readers. There is one instance where Uri showers with his mother in a women’s bathroom while in a settlement camp, rather than with his father in the men’s shower area. The older boys want to know what Uri saw and ask him specific questions that are for a more mature audience. I would say this book is ideal for a high school or adult audience. Photos, drawings, and maps are included.

I found this to be an engaging, unique WWII memoir. I’m glad I read it and can highly recommend it. 

I received an ARC copy of this book from the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
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Chance, the autobiography of Shulevitz is told in a graphic novel style with illustrations that leap of the pages, bringing this story to life. The story opens just prior to World War II and shares the author's experiences in Poland, Russia, Germany and France and provides readers with the realities of that time in history.

This is a great addition to Grades 5-8 classroom libraries.
Thank you NetGalley and Macmillan Children's Publishing Group for the e-Arc.
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A wonderful look at the life of Uri Shulevitz’s childhood as a refugee from Nazi Germany and how he developed his love of art and reading.
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I received an electronic ARC from Macmillan Children's Publishing Group through NetGalley.
Autobiography of Shulevitz told in graphic novel style. The text and illustrations blend together to show readers his life starting when he was four - just before World War II. He shares his experiences in Poland, Russia, Germany and France. He shares his life and doesn't shy away from the starvation and harassment he and his family experienced in each location. 
Well written account of his life for middle grade readers. The illustrations are fantastic and bring his story to life. The text drags a bit at times but captures the events and emotions he felt.
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I am a fan of this author but found this book an odd combination of a harrowing tale and a flat writing style that did not match the emotional content.
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