Readers are introduced to 9-year-old Ukranian Lida as she's awaiting medical examination by the Nazis, where she's separated from her little sister, Larissa, and then loaded on a train car.
There she meets Luka, who offers hope because he's escaped from the Nazis once, and sick Marika. A stranger saves Lida's life by telling her to make herself useful, or the guards will kill her.
Like all the other girls and women, Lida's forced to undress in front of the boys and have her head shaved. Then she's forced to work for the Nazis. It's toward the end of WWII, and she manages to eke out a spot in the laundry with her embroidery and sewing skills.
But when she gets a new piece of clothing from the supervisor in the laundry and shares it with a friend in the camp, it's noticed by her jailers. She's ripped from that relatively safe environment, and assigned to a weapons factory, making bombs.
It's incredibly dangerous work for small children, but even though they're being watched, they manage to slip sand into the explosive powder.
Then one day, the bombs get close -- so close, they hit the factory. And Lida sees a face in a German car, one she thinks is hauntingly familiar. It looks so much like Larissa, but could it be? Could her little sister have survived the Nazis and be riding around in a car, like a pampered child?
I won't spoil the ending. There's plenty of summaries of this book available online, but I would hope you'd want to read and discover it for yourself. Enjoy.
While there is a plethora of pay-for teaching resources for this book, I was disappointed in what the publisher, Scholastic, offers teachers for free. There just wasn't enough available for me to recommend this book to teachers, who already face buying class copies, but it will be included as a "recommended read" for WWII.