I Will Come Back for You: A Family in Hiding During World War II by Marisabina Russo is a true story of how one woman survived Italy’s involvement in WWII. Told from the point of view of a grandmother, Nonna, recounting the story to her granddaughter, this story tugs at your heart and reminds us of the strength and courage of a generation of people who are to quickly leaving us. Although Russo has just slightly simplified the story for retelling’s sake, we are like eavesdroppers on a grandmother sharing a family memory. This is what makes this story beautiful and sincere.
Young parents Jacob and Sabina had already fled from Germany as Jews as this story begins, but soon their country of Italy joins the war and Jews are now in danger in Italy too. While Jacob is held detained away from his family, he must escape to join the resistance movement. Even mother, Sabina, must escape with the help of locals who are fighting against the German invaders. The story doesn’t hide real truths of the war, including one page entirely black that answers what happened to Jacob. Included in the story are the connections to a charm bracelet worn by the grandmother with charms from each memory of the brave family and neighbors who worked to protect Nonna and her family. In addition to a glossary of words and events, Russo shares photographs of her great grandmother before, during, and after WWII and a afterward that expands on her family's experience.
A true story that must have been difficult to retell because of the deep personal connections, Russo has found a perfect balance of being a storyteller and memory keeper for her family. I enjoyed the charm bracelet connection as well as the clever ways that the characters kept safe. Storied like this as best shared. I strongly feel that if we don’t connect across generations, we all lose. I would recommend this book to 3rd to 5th graders. This book is a gentle reminder of the effects of war and how sharing stories with your family across generations can create connections.