T4 is a slim verse novel by Ann Clare LeZotte about the trials of a young deaf girl during the Holocaust. LeZotte uses fictional characters to describe an actual Nazi program called T4. Under the T4 program, people with physical or mental disabilities (whether they were Jewish or not) were killed. T4 the novel focuses on 13-year-old Paula Becker, who must leave her home and go into hiding to avoid being euthanized.
T4is about the injustice of a program that discriminated against people, in horrific fashion, because of their differences. This is a theme likely to resonate with anyone who has ever been singled out for being different.
T4 is a quick and lyrical read. I think that it will appeal to reluctant readers - the verse format leaves plenty of white space, easily luring the reader in to read just one more page, and then another. The verse makes the story more powerful, too. Much of the detail is left unsaid, in the white spaces, pushing the reader to engage with the book and fill in the full picture.
Here's an example of Paula's haunting voice:
"Patients in institutions
Were the first to die.
The Nazis knew that many Germans
Would be opposed to Action T4
If they knew the whole truth.
So they had to hide the facts.
They said "specialist children's wards,"
But they meant children-killing centers.
They said "final medical assistance,"
But they meant murder." (Page 23)
The afterword is particularly strong as poetry, and as a statement about the importance of remembering. I read it over and over again.
As with other Holocaust literature told from a child's viewpoint, Paula's youthful perspective, and her gradually dawning understanding, keep the book from being overwhelming for kids. What also keeps T4 from being overwhelming is the focus on one relatively small aspect of the Holocaust. While sometimes blunt about what happened, the book is never graphic about the violence. T4 ends on a note of hope and remembrance. Highly recommended for children and adults. This is one book that I'll be keeping to re-read.
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Publication Date: September 22, 2008
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: Maw Books, The Well-Read Child, A Patchwork of Books, Kiss the Book, Shelf Elf, What I'm Reading, Becky's Book Reviews
Author Interviews: Deaf Characters in Adolescent Literature
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.