The Red Ribbon
The Red Ribbon
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Annotation: A 14-year-old Nazi concentration camp prisoner is forced to work in a group of emaciated seamstresses, including a courageous new friend, sewing couture dresses for female SS officers and the wives of their overseers, who threaten their lives over any imperfection.
Catalog Number: #169656
Format: Publisher's Hardcover
No other formats available
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Copyright Date: 2018
Edition Date: 2018
Pages: 271 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: 1-536-20104-9
ISBN 13: 978-1-536-20104-8
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2018958192
Dimensions: 22 cm.
Language: English
Horn Book
Naive Ella works in a sewing workshop at "Birchwood," the English name for Birkenau (the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in fact had a workshop of just this kind). Ella develops a close friendship with Rose (with undertones of sexual attraction). Characterization and imagery are among the novel's strengths, though some readers may object to its simplifying and decontextualizing events in the name of "show[ing] universal experiences."
Kirkus Reviews
Historical fiction about the high-fashion tailoring studio where Nazis enslaved prisoners on the grounds of Auschwitz-Birkenau.Ella is a yellow star-wearing prisoner at the camp she calls Birchwood, where she's managed to get a labor assignment in the tailoring studio. Though the "prominent" (a fellow prisoner empowered to boss around other inmates) can be cruel, it's a safer task than many of the jobs available at the death camp. Ella's lied about her age to get the position, but she hasn't had to lie about her talent; she is genuinely a smashing seamstress. Ella's sometimes-unbelievable naiveté about the camp (she asks when she can write to her grandmother at home) enables her to willfully ignore how much her dressmaking enthusiasm smacks of collaboration. Not so her friend Rose, a political prisoner and fellow dressmaker. Unlike Ella, Rose understands that their supplies are stolen from the Nazi's victims. Though Ella's eyes eventually open to horror, especially as Rose's health falters and Birchwood descends into chaos in the waning days of the war, her unreliability as a narrator makes the camps appear less horrific than the reality. The avoidance of specific references to Jews or Germany in a story about atrocities that targeted very specific groups of people strips this Holocaust narrative of both believability and historical accuracy.Pass on this one. (afterword) (Historical fiction. 12-14)
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up Fifteen-year-old Ella enters the Upper Tailoring Studio hoping for a better job. As a talented seamstress, Ella hopes she can use her talents to survive at Birchwood, aka Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz. Ella designs and creates fine garments for her captors. Focusing on her sewing doesn't hide Ella from the toils of prison life: the hours-long roll calls, meager meals, and cruel mistreatment of prisoners, or Stripeys as she has dubbed them. One Stripey, Rose, an expert embroiderer who spins stories to entertain her fellow prisoners, becomes Ella's bunkmate, best friend, and possible romantic interest. The girls' bond is indestructible and they vow to survive their time at Birchwood and, should they become separated, meet in the City of Light to open their own dress shop after the war. This promise is sealed with a red ribbon Rose smuggles from the camp's stores and gives to Ella. After the girls are expelled from their positions at the Upper Tailoring Studio, their new jobs at the washery are not as forgiving, and they are seemingly doomed to never fulfill their promise of opening a shop together or even surviving. The author's choice to "not dwell on specific countries, regimes, or religions in the story" is a deliberate one, noted in the afterword, and readers will need to have a working knowledge of the Holocaust and concentration camps in order to grasp the apparel metaphors at work. VERDICT An additional purchase for most young adult collections. Brittany Drehobl, Morton Grove Public Library, IL
Reviewing Agencies: - Find Other Reviewed Titles
Horn Book (4/1/19)
Kirkus Reviews
National Council For Social Studies Notable Children's Trade
School Library Journal (9/1/18)
Reading Level: 7.0
Interest Level: 7-12

Shining a light on a little-known aspect of the Holocaust, Lucy Adlington weaves an unforgettable story of strength, survival, and a friendship that can endure anything.

Three weeks after being detained on her way home from school, fourteen-year-old Ella finds herself in the Upper Tailoring Studio, a sewing workshop inside a Nazi concentration camp. There, two dozen skeletal women toil over stolen sewing machines. They are the seamstresses of Birchwood, stitching couture dresses for a perilous client list: wives of the camp’s Nazi overseers and the female SS officers who make prisoners’ lives miserable. It is a workshop where stylish designs or careless stitches can mean life or death. And it is where Ella meets Rose. As thoughtful and resilient as the dressmakers themselves, Rose and Ella’s story is one of courage, desperation, and hope — hope as delicate and as strong as silk, as vibrant as a red ribbon in a sea of gray.

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