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Book Details


The Red Ribbon The Red Ribbon
Lucy Adlington


Publisher: Hot Key Books
ISBN: 9781471406287
Published: 09/21/2017
Price: £10.99


Book of the Week
This is a stunning YA debut from Lucy Adlington which takes us back into the horrific past of the concentration camps of WW2 but with a story that shines with light and love. 14-year-old Ella volunteers for a job in the sewing workshop of Birchwood camp, her dream is to one day run her own sewing studio but for now, the sewing workshop at the camp provides her with a chance to survive. There, she makes friends with the gentle and astute Rose, a storyteller. Between them they imagine a future in the 'City of Light', but with survival in Birchwood dependent on the whims of the guards, it would only take one wrong move to destroy their hopes for the future. A powerful story of hope, friendship and love for readers aged 12+.


Synopsis:
Rose, Ella, Marta and Carla. In another life we might all have been friends together. But this was Birchwood. For fans of The Diary of Anne Frank and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. As fourteen-year-old Ella begins her first day at work she steps into a world of silks, seams, scissors, pins, hems and trimmings. She is a dressmaker, but this is no ordinary sewing workshop. Hers are no ordinary clients. Ella has joined the seamstresses of Birkenau-Auschwitz, as readers may recognise it. Every dress she makes could mean the difference between life and death. And this place is all about survival. Ella seeks refuge from this reality, and from haunting memories, in her work and in the world of fashion and fabrics. She is faced with painful decisions about how far she is prepared to go to survive. Is her love of clothes and creativity nothing more than collaboration with her captors, or is it a means of staying alive? Will she fight for herself alone, or will she trust the importance of an ever-deepening friendship with Rose? One thing weaves through the colours of couture gowns and camp mud - a red ribbon, given to Ella as a symbol of hope.


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Reviews:

This is a stunning YA debut from Lucy Adlington which takes us back into the horrific past of the concentration camps of WW2 but with a story that shines with light and love. 14 year old Ella volunteers for a job in the sewing workshop of Birchwood camp, something that was inspired by the existence of a real sewing workshop in Auschwitz. Ella's dream is to one day run her own sewing studio but for now, the sewing workshop at the camp provides her with a chance to survive. There, she makes friends with the gentle and astute Rose, a storyteller. Between them they imagine a future in the 'City of Light', but with survival in Birchwood dependent on the whims of the guards, it would only take one wrong move to destroy their hopes for the future.

Woven through the story, the backdrop of mud, hunger and hopelessness, are Ella's dreams and Rose's stories and keeping the threads together is their strong friendship and their desperate need to survive. The historical details help create an authentic setting, developed with huge sensitivity to the horrific reality of the camps. Much of the worst offences are suggested rather than described but the reader is left in no doubt as to the nature of the camp.

Interestingly, Adlington doesn't draw any of the characters in black and white and she explores the ambiguity in how the camp's conditions and the desperate need to survive affect people's behaviour and humanity. Even the guards she portrays are capable of moments of casual kindness, offset by their often brutal actions.

The Red Ribbon would reward further exploration within book groups or as a class read as there is so much to discuss around human behaviour and what makes us act as we do. It is also a story that, despite its desperate setting, shines with light, energy and love. Definitely one of my favourite books of the year.

304 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Helen Long.
Helen Long

Ella loves sewing and is delighted to land her dream job of designing and making stylish clothes. But this is not an ordinary sewing shop but the Upper Tailoring Studio of Birchwood, a concentration camp, where jobs are all important. Consumed by her love of fashion and helped along by her friend Rose's stories, it becomes hard for Ella to see what is really happening all around her. Brought back to reality with a hard bump, Ella struggles to keep Rose and herself alive when all around them people suffer hardship and brutality.

I was unsure at the beginning of this book whether I would like the writing style as there are a lot of references to food and Ella's old life. This is perhaps required to show us what she has lost and how far removed her new life is from that which was taken away. The book, however, swept me along and is cleverly written as the harsh truths of life in such a brutal camp are hidden amongst the tale with parts revealed slowly and subtly. I had to know whether Ella and Rose would survive but also enjoyed Ella's obsession with fashion and her habit of naming people after animals. Girl readers will love this and be drawn into the life in the camp. Well worth a read.

287 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Lorraine Ansell, school librarian.
Lorraine Ansell


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