Andrea Cheng

A Hungarian girl comes to terms with being a Jew during WWII.

“Why can’t we all e in one apartment?” I asked.

“It wasn’t workin,” Andra said. What wasn’t working? I could see how Andras’s model car wasn’t working, but our apartment was working just fine.

As a young girl in Budapest in the 1930′s, Marika dreams of growing up to be a scientist or maybe an explorer.An older brother who never tells her anything, a beloved rag doll, and embarrassing mother, school, friends—Marika’s life revolves around ordinary things until her father decides to build a wall in their home, creating separate living quarters for himself. Why can’t they live together, like her friend Zsofti’s family?

Then, when Marika is fifteen, the Germans occupy Budapest, and war surrounds her. Her ordinary life disintegrates as her friends and family separate. Forced into hiding, Marika begins to understand the fragility and strength of the bonds among family and friends, and gradually she comes to terms with her shattered world.

  • Ages: 11 - 14
  • Grades: 6 - 9
  • Pages: 168


Recent Reviews

7 In this promising debut novel, Cheng sensitively mines her mother’s experiences as the daughter of assimilated Jews in 1930s and ’40s Budapest. …The author inhabits the character so smoothly that her story reads almost like a memoir; readers will almost certainly be moved by her evocation of Marika’s lost world.

—Publishers Weekly

Cheng brings Marika and her world alive with her simple prose, investing readers in the protagonist’s life. There is a lot of World War II and Holocaust literature available for young people, but libraries needing a fresh voice could consider adding this intriguing offering.

—School Library Journal

A child’s-eye view written in beautifully spare prose gives a special quality to this historical piece. … Marika is a poignant emotional portrait.

—Kirkus Reviews

The compelling novel is less a war story than it is the story of an interesting young life obscenely interrupted by Hitler’s war.

—Horn Book

The clear, quiet prose ultimately tells a riveting story, not only about the Nazi terror and Hungarian anti-Semitism, but also about families and their secrets.


The plot is written with such clarity that instead of being overburdened with events,it flows as a compelling Holocaust story. Family dynamics, history, and the common experiences of growing up are blended into an excellent historical text.

—Library Media Connection

Honors for Marika

  • Best Children's Books of the Year, Bank Street College of Education
  • Ohioana Book Award finalist in the Juvenile category —Ohioana Library Association
  • Books for the Teen Age —NYPL
  • Best Recent Historical Fiction: A Selective List by Michael Cart
  • Notable Children's Books of Jewish Content: The Best of the Bunch —Association of Jewish Libraries
  • Selection for Cincinnati's city-wide reading program