To be a mischling carries the connotation of being a half-blood, a mongrel. And so with this epithet we are introduced to Stasha and Pearl, twin girls with blond ringlets and Jewish heritage whose best protection before the cattle cars was their fertile imaginations, their Zeyde’s intellectual games and pastimes, and their fragile mother’s drawings. When they arrive at Auschwitz, their mother quickly grasps that their duality is desirable and, in desperation, hands them over to the lunatic evil of Joseph Mengele, believing that to be their one chance at life. As the girls join his “zoo” their identities begin to separate through their different coping strategies and the horrors to which they are subjected. They must constantly fight to remain as much alike and to hold on to as much of their humanity as possible.
The subject matter of this book ensures that it will not be for everyone, however those who venture within will find both an important view of a horrific part of history as well as a testament to the spirits of even the smallest beings who endured and survived. The strengths of the book are in the quirky but engaging writing style, and in the carefully drawn characters of the children.