Alan and Naomi
by Myron Levoy. Novel. 192 pages. Grades 5-7.
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Alan has little feeling about the war currently taking place in Europe. His father's despair at Hitler's advance seems slightly unreasonable to him. Alan is more concerned with gaining approval from his gentile schoolmates and, to do this, he is trying to build his physical strength. Then Naomi and her mother move into an apartment in Alan's building. Naomi is deeply disturbed (her father was beaten to death by the Nazis as she watched) and Alan is asked to make contact with her. At first Alan is an unwilling participant in Naomi's therapy, but they gradually achieve real friendship. Alan's commitment and friendship eventually strengthens Naomi to the extent that she comes to school. Alan has discarded his search for admiration of his classmates to the degree that he is proud to be associated with Naomi in spite of their disdain. Then Alan and Naomi are taunted by a racist bully. When she sees Alan being bloodied and beaten, Naomi's precarious hold on sanity is broken and she retreats beyond Alan's and probably anybody's reach.
At the beginning this seems like an overly simplistic story. As the reader continues, however, the plot and characters take on more complexity. A yellow model airplane is used as a symbol throughout the story. The avoidance of pat solutions and the downbeat ending lifts this above many young adult novels and the oblique view of the war and the Holocaust opens many avenues for dialogue and further research into either mental illness or the events of World War II.
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