Wednesday 1 July 2020

Beyond Belief

Beyond Belief by Dee White, (Omnibus Books), 2020, RRP $17.99 pb
      ISBN: 9781760662516

Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

Dee White’s book was inspired by the way Muslims in Paris saved the lives of many Jewish children during World War II. This unusual and generally unrecognised true story makes Beyond Belief a valuable addition to middle grade books dealing with this period. It’s also a rattling good adventure full of suspense, with easily likeable characters and a strong evocation of place.

When France is invaded, eleven-year-old Ruben’s parents take him to the Grand Mosque in Paris. They are going to find his sister who has disappeared somewhere in the south of France. Rubin must wait, pretending to be a Muslim, until the legendary Fox appears to take him to Spain where he will be united with his family.

Unfortunately, the Mosque is not safe. It is frequently visited and searched by Nazis.  Rubin escapes with two other Jewish children, Hana and her little brother Momo. Aided by the Resistance, they have several hair-raising adventures. Finally, the three reach a farmhouse in the French countryside, far away from Spain. There, by a set of surprising circumstances, he meets his sister and learns the Fox’s identity.

Rubin emerges as a gentle, kind-hearted boy who struggles to stay brave. Faced with danger, he remembers his mother’s advice: ‘You must be strong like the cedars’.

The details of life in the mosque are fascinating and informative. Jewish and Muslim faiths have many similarities (and differences) which could spark interesting classroom discussions. 

Dee White wanted ‘to write a story about kindness, humanity and hope amidst the horror of war.’ Beyond Belief is certainly that. As such it is a useful text for our time. Highly recommended.

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