Review: The Pebble: An Allegory of the Holocaust

The Pebble: An Allegory of the Holocaust

by Marius Marcinkevičius, illustrated by Inga Dagilė

Thames & Hudson, 2023

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Rebecca Greer
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Eitan is a young boy living in a ghetto in Lithuania. Although they cannot leave the ghetto, everyone tries to make the best of what they have. People still gather to laugh, bake food, and hold events at a theater, including a violin performance by Eitan. While they try to go on with their lives, the threat of the Nazi soldiers in their town looms over them. Eitan’s father was taken “to work” and never returned. Illustrations chiefly use blacks, browns, and military green over white and gray backgrounds, producing a dreary and somber mood. The main exception is yellow, reflecting the yellow stars Jews were forced to wear, and which all the Jewish characters have on their chests. Light blues surround Eitan's best friend Rivka, with whom he can still be a kid, before they are ripped apart when her family is taken away. Blackbirds are depicted as ominous figures; at one point indistinguishable from the “men in the black uniforms” who watch everyone. This sad and realistic book shows what it’s like to grow up in a ghetto in 1943 and slowly understand what is happening to friends and family. Eitan is eventually taken as well; turning into a pebble to be placed on a grave in Jewish tradition. An epilogue at the end names the Holocaust and talks about the atrocities Jews faced. Also mentioned is hope in brave people who protected Jews and were given an award in Israel as members of “the righteous among nations”.

Jewish representation in this book is that of a small community in Lithuania. The book shows people of all different ages, genders, and working a variety of jobs. The characters seem very authentic, looking at everyone from the perspective of a child. The Jewish content is incredibly integral to the story as it shows how they were treated during the Holocaust. Anyone with familiarity with the Holocaust will be able to understand the text, and the epilogue at the back will help to further that understanding. Having the central character turn into a pebble that gets placed on graves may be a new concept to non-Jewish readers, but this is explained in the epilogue and will help them better understand the Jewish experience and traditions. 

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Reviewer Rebecca Greer is currently a High School Library Media Specialist for Manatee School for the Arts. In her previous life, she was a Young Adult Librarian for almost ten years where she specialized in running large-scale programs, including Teen Lit Fest, an author festival in Tampa, FL. Rebecca writes book reviews for School Library Journal focusing on books for Young Adults, and several of her programs have been published in "Think Big!: A Resource Manual for Teen Library Programs That Attract Large Audiences".