According to legend, a group of Jewish families survived the Holocaust by hiding out for months in the 77 miles of caves in Ukraine known as Priest's Grotto. Cavers Taylor and Nicola chronicle their trip to explore the caves and uncover the story of the survivors.
Though afflicted with hyperbolic commentary that's more of a distraction than an enhancement, this tale makes riveting reading. The authors braid together an account of how three dozen Ukrainian Jews hid from Nazis and hostile local residents by retreating into a massive complex of gypsum caves for nearly a full year; an ingenious detective story about a modern search for the scattered survivors; and a recent visit to the still-not-thoroughly-explored subterranean complex south of Kiev. The fugitives, some of whom were small children, survived isolation, malnourishment and constant danger for 344 days, and their achievement hardly needs lines like, " . . . united against a common oppressor, their will to live was unshakable," or several generic scenes of German soldiers in the field misidentified as Gestapo on a "search for escaping Jews," shoehorned into the marvelous array of underground photos and old and new family portraits. Based largely on a privately published memoir and an emotionally charged collective interview, this is a unique and absorbing addition to the library of Holocaust testimonials written for younger readers. (time line) (Nonfiction. 9-12) (Kirkus Reviews)