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The Extra
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The Extra
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Is the chance to serve as an extra for Hitler's favorite filmmaker a chance at life—or a detour on the path to inevitable extermination? One ordinary afternoon, fifeen-year-old Lilo and her...
Is the chance to serve as an extra for Hitler's favorite filmmaker a chance at life—or a detour on the path to inevitable extermination? One ordinary afternoon, fifeen-year-old Lilo and her...
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Description-

  • Is the chance to serve as an extra for Hitler's favorite filmmaker a chance at life—or a detour on the path to inevitable extermination? One ordinary afternoon, fifeen-year-old Lilo and her family are suddenly picked up by Hitler's police and imprisoned as part of the "Gypsy plague." Just when it seems certain that they will be headed to a labor camp, Lilo is chosen by filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl to work as a film extra. Life on the film set is a bizarre alternate reality. The surroundings are glamorous, but Lilo and the other extras are barely fed, closely guarded, and kept in a locked barn when not on the movie set. And the beautiful, charming Riefenstahl is always present, answering the slightest provocation with malice, flaunting the power to assign prisoners to life or death. Lilo takes matters into her own hands, effecting an escape and running for her life. In this chilling but ultimately uplifting novel, Kathryn Lasky imagines the lives of the Gypsies who worked as extras for the real Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, giving readers a story of survival unlike any other.

About the Author-

  • People often ask Newbery Honor winner Kathryn Lasky how and why she writes both fiction and nonfiction. The author, who has written more than forty books, answers, "I am equally attracted to both types of writing because for me the most important thing is if a story is real. Real stories can be either fiction or nonfiction."

    Kathryn Lasky's nonfiction books for young readers are certainly diverse in subject, ranging from wildlife photography to weaving, maple syrup, and paleoanthropology. Often collaborating with her husband, filmmaker and photographer Christopher G. Knight, the author has created several acclaimed photographic essays for children. One of them, Interrupted Journey: Saving Endangered Sea Turtles, takes the reader on a riveting tour from Cape Cod, where an endangered Kemp's ridley turtle is found, to the Gulf of Mexico, where these turtles will eventually return to lay their eggs. "Even in my nonfiction books," the author says, "telling a story is more important than reciting the facts."

    One true story Kathryn Lasky heard as a little girl inspired Vision of Beauty: The Story of Sarah Breedlove Walker, her biography of the daughter of former slaves who, through sheer tenacity, founded a successful line of hair products for African American women. "When I was growing up in Indianapolis, I loved having a lemonade stand," the author recalls. "One of my early memories is coming into the kitchen with a jar full of money and my mother exclaiming, 'Goodness, Kathryn, maybe you'll grow up to be the next Madam Walker!'" The author says that she was drawn to write another biography, A Voice of Her Own: The Story of Phillis Wheatley, Slave Poet, because she was fascinated by the relationship between the writer's voice, her identity as a slave, and freedom.

    Kathryn Lasky's fiction for children includes such humorous books as the award-winning Lunch Bunnies, Show and Tell Bunnies, Science Fair Bunnies, as well as the newest addition, Tumble Bunnies. These books, she says, are "part of the continuing saga of the problems that loom large in the lives of first graders as they try to figure out their world." She also authored the picture book Love That Baby!, a must-read for any child with a new baby in his or her life.

    "I am sure a lot of folks must think I'm rather scattered doing all these different books," Kathryn Lasky admits. "But to me, the whole part of being an artist is to get up every morning and reinvent the world." Kathryn Lasky and her husband live in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    September 16, 2013
    Lasky (the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series) delivers a well-researched and uncompromising standalone novel focusing on the Nazi genocide of the Roma and Sinti peoples. Lilo—a Sinti girl of 15 at the beginning of the book—is taken by the Nazis when they start rounding up the Romani of Austria. Lilo’s losses mount quickly as she’s separated from her father and many of her friends; only the opportunity to be an extra in the cast of a film by Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl might save her. Along with a musically gifted boy named Django, Lilo learns the ins and outs of the concentration camps and witnesses the genocide as it affects her loved ones. Lasky’s novel is thorough in its attention to detail, mixing facts like Riefenstahl’s awful behavior toward her charges with the horrific lives of the fictional characters. Only a slightly rushed ending throws off the pace, but even then, between the constant, appalling brutality of the camps and Lilo’s growth over the years, Lasky draws remarkable depth, realism, and even charm out of a bleak story. Ages 12–up.

  • School Library Journal

    December 1, 2013

    Gr 8 Up-In 1940 Vienna, 15-year-old Lilo lives with her mother and father under the watchful eyes of the Nazis, who have recently fingerprinted and identified the family as a part of the "Gypsy plague." Soon after, they are arrested and taken to jail to await deportation to an internment camp. When they are separated, Lilo and her mother are transferred to another camp where they are selected to be extras in Leni Riefenstahl's latest film. Treated as slaves, they are all at the mercy of the mercurial director, who quickly dispatches those who displease her. When her mother disappears, The teen escapes to Salzburg where she is hidden from the Gestapo but then recaptured. Facing extermination, she makes the courageous decision to escape once again, leading to her eventual rescue by Allied forces. Inspired by actual events, Lasky's intense novel exposes readers to the atrocities endured by Gypsies during World War II, specifically those who worked on the film Tiefland. Told from a third-person point of view, the story never really allows readers to feel what Lilo feels yet it manages to convey the horrors she witnesses with frightening clarity. The narrative moves briskly as characters come and go in Lilo's life, which is beneficial since many of the supporting figures are flat and indistinguishable from one another. With its abrupt ending, however, the story seems unfinished and may leave readers wondering what Lilo's future holds.-Audrey Sumser, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Mayfield, OH

    Copyright 2013 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    September 1, 2013
    The rarely told story of the Nazi genocide of the Romani people unfolds through the eyes of a heavily fictionalized "film slave," a Romani girl forced into service as an extra in a Leni Riefenstahl film. Lilo is 15 when the Nazis cart her family off to a concentration camp. She'd assumed they were safe--settled, urban, skilled Sinti, unlike Roma who traveled in caravans and were easier targets of bigotry. But there's no safety in Buchenwald or Maxglan, where her mother is the subject of sadistic procedures and her father vanishes in the night. In a stroke of luck, she's taken to be a forced extra, a film slave in the backdrop of Leni Riefenstahl's film Tiefland. Along with the other Romani imprisoned by Riefenstahl, Lilo fights to stay alive in circumstances less extreme than the camps but still horrific. Filmmaking details provide a unique flavor in a tragic story that's otherwise all too familiar. Amid death and torment, Lilo encounters unexpectedly frequent sparks of human decency. Conveyed in at-times overly expository prose, Lilo's story is fiction laid upon the life of actual Romani Holocaust survivor Anna Blach. Context is provided by a deeply problematic author's note, which dedicates more than four pages to Riefenstahl but only three sentences to the modern Romani, mentioning neither the modern reality of anti-Romani bigotry nor the simple fact that "Gypsy" (used through the note as synonymous with "Romani") is now considered pejorative and should be avoided. In the end, the touching story of survival carries readers over the occasional infelicities. (Historical fiction. 12-16)

    COPYRIGHT(2013) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    October 15, 2013
    Grades 8-12 The year is 1940. Lilo, 15, and her family are Gypsies (Romani) who have been rounded up by the Nazis and sent to the Maxglan internment camp. It is there that Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler's favorite film director, selects Lilo and her mother to serve as extras in her new movie, Tiefland. As shooting of the film begins, Riefenstahl quickly emerges as a beautiful but feral and very, very dangerous woman. As for the extras, they're little more than slaves who are living not in a cinematic dreamworld but, instead, in a waking nightmare. Aside from her mother, the only bright spot in Lilo's life is the boy Django, a brilliant survivor and indispensable information-gatherer. But even he can't know what their fate will be when the filming concludes. Could it be freedom? Lasky has written a harrowing and deeply moving novel that focuses attention on a seldom-told story of the Nazis' attempt to exterminate the Romani people. Thoroughly researched and insightful, the book is ideal for classroom use and discussion.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2013, American Library Association.)

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