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Children's Fiction Holocaust

A Boy Is Not a Ghost

by (author) Edeet Ravel

Groundwood Books Ltd
Initial publish date
Sep 2021
Holocaust, Europe
Recommended Age
9 to 12
Recommended Grade
4 to 7
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2021
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2021
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


Winner, Quebec Writers' Federation Janet Savage Blachford Prize for Children and Young Adult Literature
Finalist, Governor General’s Literary Award for Young People’s Literature
In this sequel to the award-winning A Boy Is Not a Bird, a boy is exiled to Siberia during World War II. Based on a true story.

Torn from his home in Eastern Europe, with his father imprisoned in a Siberian gulag, twelve-year-old Natt finds himself stranded with other deportees in a schoolyard in Novosibirsk. And he is about to discover that life can indeed get worse than the horrific two months he and his mother have spent being transported on a bug-infested livestock train. He needs to write to his best friend, Max, but he knows the Soviet police reads everyone’s mail. So Natt decides to write in code, and his letters are a lifeline, even though he never knows whether Max will receive them.

Every day becomes a question of survival, and where they might be shunted to next. When his mother is falsely arrested for stealing potatoes, Natt is truly on his own and must learn how to live the uncertain life of an exile. Practice being invisible as a ghost, change your name and identity if you have to, watch out for spies, and never draw the attention of the authorities.

Even then, he will need luck on his side if he is ever going to be reunited with his family.


Key Text Features

author's note




Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:

Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character's thoughts, words, or actions).

Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative language such as metaphors and similes.

Describe how a narrator's or speaker's point of view influences how events are described.

Analyze how visual and multimedia elements contribute to the meaning, tone, or beauty of a text (e.g., graphic novel, multimedia presentation of fiction, folktale, myth, poem).

About the author

Edeet was born on a kibbutz and lived in Israel until the age of seven. She has a PhD in Jewish studies from McGill and graduate degrees in literature and creative writing. She has taught at McGill, Concordia and John Abbott College. In addition to her award-winning novels for adults, Edeet has written Held, a YA thriller that was nominated for the CLA Young Adult Book of the Year, the Saskatchewan Willow Award, the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association Top Forty and the Arthur Ellis Best Juvenile Crime Award. Her YA novel The Saver has been adapted for film by Wiebke von Carolsfeld; the film has garnered prizes around the globe. Edeet lives in Guelph, Ontario, and gets her best ideas at the Y swimming pool. Her name is pronounced ee-DEET.

Edeet Ravel's profile page


  • Winner, Quebec Writers' Federation Janet Savage Blachford Prize for Children’s and Young Adult Literature
  • Long-listed, Governor General's Literary Award
  • Commended, Canadian Children’s Book Centre, Best Books for Kids and Teens
  • Short-listed, Hackmatack Award

Editorial Reviews

A strikingly jaunty, present-tense account of suffering and dislocation.

Wall Street Journal

Utter­ly com­pelling and real­is­tic … unforgettable.

Jewish Book Council

Although his story is sorrowful, Natt teaches us that resilience and kindness can still be a choice.

Calgary Herald

A suspenseful, heartwarming read.

Toronto Star

Ravel’s novel offers a compelling picture of life in the U.S.S.R. under the reign of Stalin and of one family’s extraordinary adventures in surviving its depredations.


A compelling read.

Montreal Review of Books

Thought provoking.

Cloud Lake Literary

An inspiring tale of survival which successfully brings an important forgotten piece of history to life.

CM: Canadian Review of Materials

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