In 1827, Czar Nicholas I decreed that Jewish boys age 12 up would serve in the Russian army for 31 years, and Jewish communities in every town were ordered to send their boys. Crippling fines were imposed on towns that didn`t fill their quota, and hired "catchers" would round up the town`s orphaned or poor children.
When Moshe`s father was fit and strong, running the town`s bathhouse brought him enough money and social standing to protect 13-year-old Moshe from forced army service. But in 1854, Moshe`s father became too sick to work. That year, 7,515 boys were press-ganged into the army. Moshe was one of them. His wrenching account of cruelty and extreme privation is told in a heartfelt and very immediate way.
This book`s often somber subject is best appreciated by mature young readers.
Illustrations: Avi Katz