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By Suzy Zail

Reviewed by Mia Macrossan

Suzy Zail used to be a lawyer but quit to become a writer. Her books include The Tattooed Flower,  The Wrong Boy, and Alexander Altman A10567 –  all stories based on or inspired by her own Jewish heritage.
Inkflower is a powerful story of Lisa, a teenage girl who finds out her father has six months to live. He uses the time he has left to tell his family about his time in Auschwitz, something he has kept hidden until now. It’s based on Zail’s own father’s experiences as a child survivor. The story alternates between her father’s account of his war experiences and Lisa’s life in the 80s.
Lisa initially doesn’t want to hear her father’s awful story,  a harrowing account of loss and brutality, hunger and hope. She has been keeping her own secrets. At school no one  knows she is Jewish or that her dad is dying. She is adept at fitting in, being one of the crowd as she believes that ‘being different is bad’. This secrecy creates conflict with her best friend  Deb and her boyfriend Adam.
The story alternates between the visceral accounts of her Dad’s life in the camps and Lisa’s world of school and family. Gradually as she learns more and more of her father’s past, Lisa’s understanding and feelings for her family deepen as her relationships with Deb and Adam grow more fractured since she is not sharing with them her newfound knowledge.
This story flawlessly inhabits two distant time periods while giving the reader lively immediate characters that live on every page. There is plenty of intimate detail and emotion as Lisa recounts her father’s decline, death and funeral but ultimately this book is life affirming.
Perennial themes of identity, secrecy, death and dying, friendship, family and teenage love are expertly interwoven in this long detailed story that will appeal to readers 14 years plus. Suzy says of this story:  it’s the truest thing I’ve ever written and very timely. This truth and timelessness is what gives this story its resonance today.
The publisher has provided many resources for those teachers considering using it as a class text including  Author letter for teachers and Teacher Notes.
Suzy Zail
Walker Books 2023
Longlisted Book Links Award for Children’s Historical Fiction 2024.



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