Tuesday, June 11, 2002

"Promise of Zion" Series for Young Readers: Books 3 and 4

Previous reviews have told of the first two books in Robert Elmer’s "Promise of Zion" series. Now, a look at books three and four in the series:

In Refugee Treasure, the third book in Robert Elmer's "Promise of Zion" series for young readers, Dov Zalinsky wanders the streets of Jerusalem in search of his family. He soon meets an Arab Christian man, and finds himself involved with his new friend's problems. Mr. Bin-Jazzi has some newly discovered, ancient scrolls, and Arab men will stop at nothing to steal the scrolls. Dov finds many adventures as he explores Jerusalem and helps hide the scrolls.

Meanwhile, Emily Parkinson is back with her parents in Jerusalem. Many British families have already left the country due to the political problems, and now the Parkinsons want to send Emily away by the end of the year as well. Emily, though, does not want to leave what is, after all, her home; she hardly remembers her birth country. She also cannot stop thinking about Dov Zalinsky, and begins her own investigation to find the boy's parents.

Refugee Treasure shows the beginning signs of growth and maturity in the main two characters. Hardened, stubborn Dov is now more willing to accept help from others. Emily is no longer the naïve, trusting child who only believes what her daddy has told her. Now her eyes are opened more to the plight of Jews such as poor Dov and others less fortunate than she. Accordingly, the two children get along better when they finally meet again, having both matured through their experiences.

Whereas the previous book, Peace Rebel, covered a time period of less than two weeks, this third story covers the next few months, from September through November 1947. It is a turbulent period in Palestine, with the British announcing their withdrawal from the area that September. Then on November 29, 1947, the United Nations votes to allow a new state of Israel. Dov and Emily are part of the adventure, a time of history making. Radio broadcasts in the story's background are taken from the actual words of those BBC broadcasts. The Dead Sea Scrolls were also discovered this same year, and a minor character is introduced who in fact had the scrolls in his care during this time period.

The fourth book in the "Promise of Zion" series, Brother Enemy, continues the ongoing story of Dov Zalinski and Emily Parkinson, thirteen-year-olds in Palestine in the late 1940s.

Several months have passed since the day the UN voted for a state of Israel, and Arab violence against the Jews has escalated. In the spring of 1948, Dov sneaks over to the Wailing Wall – in Arab disguise – and still encounters trouble. Jews are no longer safe in the Arab quarter, where Dov once lived with Mr. Bin-Jazzi, an Arab Christian. Soon Dov finds himself back in the Jewish quarter, working with the Hagenah, the Jewish volunteer army. Then he gets involved with radio technology and broadcasts for Israel’s cause, while continuing his search for his older brother, Natan.

Emily, previously determined to stay in Jerusalem, watches as the city she loves erupts in violence that touches her own life as well. Her mother lives in fear, never leaving their house, and Emily is forced to realize her own selfishness – and how she can make her mother happy. Thus she comes to accept the inevitable of going "home" to England.

Historic events in Brother Enemy include an urban bombing near a shopping center – based on two actual bombings from the time – as well as the Hagenah’s battle against Arabs near a small town.

Both Refugee Treasure and Brother Enemy are enjoyable and educational. The stories provide great action adventure with a rich historical setting, complete with author notes and suggestions for learning more about the historical period.

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