In its quiet way, this is a remarkable and original book.
—School Library Journal
The pain of the immigrant experience ... is compellingly captured in this spare, unsentimental novel.
Cheng achieves a pitch-perfect characterization for this Hungarian-American boy in the early 1950s. ...His few possessions are well beloved, and his insatiable thirst for knowledge about his world is age-authentic. The metaphors that Cheng provides, her straightforward prose, and the connections she draws between life behind the Iron Curtain and life under American slavery make the difficult concepts Peti must contend with understandable to both him and the reader; children with and without first-hand experience with immigration and relatives in danger in faraway lands will warm to Peti's plight.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Deeply moving. ...Through Peti's credible voice, Cheng insightfully explores multiple themes and motifs, among them hope, light, escape, family, friendship and self-reliance.
The book presents a sensitive and realistic portrait of a bright, trusting child caught up in situations he does not understand. Emphasis on the grandfather’s plight behind the iron curtain adds to the story’s historical value.
Short, episodic chapters and poetic prose make this a good choice for those of a literary bent.
Peti is a likeable character even though he often gets into trouble by asking too many questions. Forming a special relationship with the local librarian adds a gentle sub-plot and alleviates some of the suffering Peti endures at the hands of Gabor. Recommended.
—Library Media Connection
"When Hungarian relatives join Peti's family in their small apartment in America, Peti's parents are overwhelmed with worry for those still behind the Iron Curtain and do not notice that Peti's cousin is bullying him. This is an emotional story about a quiet boy who, with the help of his local librarian, learns to stand up for himself.
—Horn Book Guide
The problems of a Hungarian immigrant family in Cincinnati in 1952 as seen through the eyes of an eight-year-old boy. Peti’s aunt, uncle and older cousin finally get visas and come to stay with Peti and his parents until his uncle can get a job. This means that the apartment is overcrowded. To make matters worse Peti’s cousin, Gabor, bullies him. But Peti finds a refuge. He spends all his time in the library. Peti is interested in everything from the solar system to pinhole cameras. The librarian takes an interest in Peti. She tells him about the Underground Railroad and Peti is interested. He compares the plight of the slaves to that of his own grandfather. He has heard his parents saying he has been sent to a farm. But his grandfather cannot escape from Hungary because there are too many soldiers at the border. Mrs Malone, the librarian, takes Peti on a visit to a station on the underground Railroad which is now a museum. The museum makes a deep impression on Peti. Earlier Gabor had made him take money out of his uncle’s suitcase. When this is discovered the grown-ups make excuses for both Peti and Gabor— Peti because he is so young and Gabor because moving around from country to country has been hard for him. But Peti quietly reminds himself that he still knew it was wrong and Gabor did not have to swim a freezing river. The story is told in the first person by Peti. This gives a child’s eye picture of the Iron Curtain. When he first hears that his grandfather has been sent to a farm Peti thinks he will like that. He could have a cat and kittens. A highly original description of the Cold War. The Underground Railroad forms an interesting parallel with the border between the Communist countries and the West.
—Historical Novels Review
CLASSROOM CONNECTIONS Elementary school Capturing the Spirit of the Past Transitional Historical Fiction These historical adventures for grades three to five will spark interest in the past. In 1952, eight-year-old Peti must give up his room to Hungarian relatives who move to Cincinnati to escape life behind the Iron Curtain. When his older cousin bullies him, Peti finds refuge in books and the library.