Book Review of The Crystal Beads, Lalka’s Journey
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The Children’s Book Review
Written by Pat Black-Gould
Illustrated by Katya Royz
Ages 8+ | 40 Pages
Publisher: Purple Butterfly Press | ISBN-13: 9781955119207
What to Expect: Family, WWII, religion, compassion, inclusivity
In the vastness of something as traumatic and devastating as the Holocaust, the individual stories and voices can sometimes get lost in a sea of atrocities. The Crystal Beads gives voice and life back to just one of those stories, helping readers see truths about compassion, empathy, and caring for others amidst the horror and sadness of war.
Lalka always wears the Star of David that her Papa gave her when she was five years old. She loves that star as much as she loved her Papa, so she is very confused when Mama tells her she must take off the star and wear something called a rosary instead. Mama puts the Star of David away carefully in her pocket and starts teaching Lalka a new game.
In the game, Lalka must learn the names of saints and memorize prayers, and how to do something called “genuflecting.” Worst of all, she has to go and live in a school in a church without her Mama. Little does Lalka know that learning how to play this game may be the only thing that saves her life.
Lalka’s story, loosely based on real life and told through her own voice, invites readers to see the value of embracing differences. At the same time, it teaches them some of the complexities of religion and politics, and how the interplay between them can be at the heart of war and genocide. Katya Royz’s beautiful pencil illustrations bring the characters’ emotions to life—both the good and the bad—across page spreads that show the world through Lalka’s eyes.
At the end of the book, an informative afterword and study guide questions invite readers to learn more about the real history of the Holocaust, making this an excellent learning aid and a moving story.
Overall, The Crystal Beads is a moving, thought-provoking exploration of love and hatred told through a deceptively simple story—not easy reading, but definitely essential reading.
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About the Author
Pat Black-Gould, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and an author. Her short stories have appeared in several literary journals and anthologies.
Many years ago, Pat heard a powerful story that haunted her until she committed it to paper. The Crystal Beads was first published in Jewish Fiction. net in 2020. The short story then won first-place honors in two writing competitions conducted by the National League of American Pen Women, Washington, D.C.
The first was an award by the Pen Women Florida State Association. She then received the Flannery O’Connor Short Story Award as part of the National Biennial Letters in Competition. Pat felt it important to bring the story to a younger audience. At that point, she rewrote it as a children’s book. She hopes that The Crystal Beads, Lalka’s Journey, will do justice to the story she once heard and carry its message to younger generations.
Pat’s writing explores topics such as compassion, tolerance, and diversity. She continues to examine these themes in her upcoming novel, Limbo of the Moon, written with her co-writer, Steve Hardiman.
For more information, visit www.patblackgould.com.
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