The Year of Goodbyes Resources

The Year of Goodbyes, by Debbie Levy

Hyperion, March 2010

Author website:

Publisher website:–1423129016

Other websites:


Starred Review. Grade 6–8—Inspired by her mother’s poesiealbum (poetry album), which survived her childhood retreat from Nazi Germany, Levy has created a verse novel slim in length but long on beauty, power, and anguish. Jutta Salzberg lived a normal, happy life until 1938. Although Hitler’s reign is in its infancy, Jewish Germans already face severe restrictions in their lives; segregated schools, shops, and curfews are already the norm, with stories of the public humiliation of elderly Jews and concentration camps to follow. This book is comprised of actual entries in the poesiealbum penned by Jutta’s friends, interspersed with verses in 12-year-old Jutta’s voice that respond to and even challenge the sentiments conveyed within each poem. Although her entries get darker and more frightful during Germany’s descent into madness, there is still some joy to be found in birthday presents, friendships, and gymnastics lessons. Jutta, based upon Levy’s mother, is a character to whom many preadolescents and adolescents, on the brink of questioning spoon-fed platitudes, can relate. The foreword, explaining poesiealbums, and the afterword, detailing Jutta’s post-immigration life, are essential reading. The author’s extensive research, including tracking down the fate of the majority of Jutta’s classmates, is detailed in an understated yet moving tone. A time line including pre- and post-World War II dates, as well as important dates within Jutta’s life, is included, as are eight pages of family photos. An outstanding and emotionally taut read for children not quite ready for Jennifer Roy’s Yellow Star (Marshall Cavendish, 2006) and other, more graphic depictions of the Holocaust.–School Library Journal

Holocaust titles appear every season, prompting some to overlook the genre, but the best always approach the topic from a fresh perspective, making them worthy purchases. Levy shares excerpts from her mother Jutta Salzberg’s 1938 poetry album, in which friends and family express good wishes in poems and drawings. She includes reproductions of original pages, English translations, and free verse musings that reflect 11-year-old Jutta’s voice and feelings as she watches Jewish friends disappear from Hamburg while her own family waits for U.S. visas. Levy also includes a few entries from Jutta’s diary and oblaten (sticker) images from the original. Although entries are short, distinct characters and a strong sense of narrative emerge. Levy ends with the Salzbergs’ November 1938 arrival in New York; an afterword provides family and Holocaust background and traces what happened to the people introduced. Similar in scope to Karen Ackerman’s The Night Crossing (1994), this makes a good introduction to Holocaust literature, especially for those who aren’t quite ready for scenes of death camps.–Booklist

Lesson Plan Ideas:

Discussion guide:


Leave a comment

Filed under Young Adult

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s