Book Guide

Two rooms all to themselves—it was almost too good to be true! For this was postwar Germany, filled with starving, homeless people trying to stay alive amidst the rubble, and to the Lechows the two freezing attic rooms in Mrs. Verduz' house on Parsley Street were an unbelievable stroke of luck. No matter that every stick of furniture and even the cracked dishes were borrowed from a grudging but kind landlady, that food was so scarce they were nearly always hungry, that Matthias, loving the stars and growing things, was assigned to construction work by the Labor Office. Now that there was a roof over their heads, Joey and Andrea could attend school, and perhaps Father, if he was still alive, would find his way to them from the prison camp in Russia.

It was a makeshift arrangement at best, but somehow Mother made the cheerless rooms homelike, and soon there were good friends—lovable, half-wild Hans Ulrich who treasure-hunted with Joey in the ruins of bombed-out houses; musical Dieter; and plump, cheerful Lenchen—to share their meagre but merry Christmas celebration. Only shy, lonely Margret, who felt that half herself had died with her twin brother Christian in East Germany, made no special friend, unless one counted Caliph, Mrs. Verduz' cat. But eventually, it was Margret's love of animals that led her to sprightly Mrs. Almut and Rowan Farm and, before the next Christmas, Matthias had exchanged his hated job for the hard but satisfying work of the farm. Margret, too, happily caring for Mrs. Almut's Great Danes, was beginning to understand the inexorable cycle of life and death, and the Ark, an old railroad car on the farm converted into a home, was ready to receive a reunited family.

The Ark gives young Americans an honest, realistic picture of the terrible aftermath of war in a defeated country. But most of all, it is a story of courage—the courage of real people who, caught up in an adversity that has shattered their lives, can still look at the future with hope and at the past without bitterness.

From the dust jacket

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Margot Benary-Isbert

Margot Benary-Isbert

(Pronounced ben ARE ee ó rhymes with Ferrari)
1889 - 1979
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The Ark Reprint

The Ark
Reprinted in 2020 by Purple House Press
Available formats: Hardcover, Paperback
View on the Purple House Press site

This edition was "slightly revised" by the publisher. To learn more, visit the FAQ page.

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Kirkus Reviews

The Ark
A heart felt story of a post-war German refugee family of five, but one that falls short of significance by way of...

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Plumfield and Paideia

The Ark
Reviewed by Sara Masarik
While reading, I felt like this story would be what would have happened if Hilda van Stockum, Maria von Trapp, Gene Straton Porter, and James Herriot had collaborated to tell a story about family and farm life in rural post-war Germany. The Lechow family is Catholic, and we are treated to scenes with Advent wreaths and other liturgical observances that feel like they come right out of Around the Year with the von Trapp Family. The family itself is truly the main character of the story just like in van Stockumís books, especially Five for Victory. And, when Matthias and Margaretís luck finally changes and they are taken in by a vivacious and resolute farm widow as hired hands, we have pages and pages of delightful old-fashioned farm stories that remind me of James Herriot.

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There is a lengthly plot summary and review on the blog, Leaves and Pages.

There's another review of the book on the blog, The Childrens War, which focuses on books for children about World War II.

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