How Four Perfect Pebbles Came into Book Form
When I arrived in the United States, at age 13, I was so busy learning English and trying to catch up to a proper grade for my age, and working after school to help my Mom pay bills, that I had no time to talk about my terrible past. I had to put those years behind me and get on with life.
And, because of the enormity of the suffering we endured, I never thought anyone would believe me if I did tell them about my wartime experiences, about my 6 1/2 years of incarceration in transit and concentration camps. Few classmates of mine at Peoria Central High School knew of my past until some 40 years later, when Four Perfect Pebbles was published.
It wasn’t until 1979 that I spoke publicly about the Holocaust, first in a synagogue, and then in schools and organizations. I had jotted down on a legal pad my recollections, about 8 pages of notes. I recall I was a very unhappy person for several days while dredging up these old memories.
When I first began speaking, I remember being quite nervous about getting in front of an audience. Speaking became easier, probably in large part because of the wonderful response of my audiences. However, after a talk, at night, I had to cope with what I said that day. And, although I am at ease in speaking to an audience with as many as 1,000 or more persons these days, I still feel the strain of those long ago memories long after the talk. I am thankful that I have Nathaniel, my husband, at my side at all times.
Lila Perl called me in 1993 wanting to know where and when I was next going to speak. A mutual friend, Joan Newman, referred Lila to me after hearing me speak at a Baldwin Hadassah chapter meeting. I didn’t know it at the time, but Lila was a well-established author of biographies and social history books for children and young adults, with now over 50 published fiction and nonfiction titles to her credit.
After witnessing my presentation to a group of 5th graders at the Hewlett Elementary School, and seeing the students’ reactions, Lila said, “You must put your story into written form. Would you be willing to work with me on a book?”
I had never thought of writing a book although Susan, our daughter, had asked that I write about my experiences for future generations of our own family.
Under our agreement, Lila was to be responsible for checking on the factual background of the story and for the preparation, organization, and writing of the manuscript. She was also to see the finished work through the press and to handle all matters pertaining to the literary form and style. Further, she researched and supplied the documentary photos in the book that were to supplement my personal photos.
As a result of working closely together, we gave the story immediacy and drama. I retold my own experiences and my mother, who had borne the most complete effect of our ordeal, contributed her amazing detailed recollections. My brother Albert, two years older than I, was also involved, and Lila traveled to California to interview him for his first-hand accounts and vivid memories of certain portions of the book.
Some family members felt we should write the book as a first-person story. But Lila pointed out that I, having been born in 1934, was unable to personally report on our family’s situation in Germany during my earlier years, and could know only what was later told to me.
The manuscript was submitted to several publishing houses, and it wasn’t long before Greenwillow, a division of William Morrow accepted it for publication. Elizabeth Shub, our editor at Greenwillow, told me that when she read the manuscript for the first time, it affected her so deeply that she cried.
Four Perfect Pebbles is in its 26th printing at Greenwillow and is available in paperback from Avon Camelot Books. It is also be available in Dutch, German, and Japanese (published by Asunaro Shobo of Tokyo), and is soon to be published in Hebrew.
It is available in schools through Scholastic Books.
I am proud that the book has earned wonderful reviews and honors. I am grateful to Lila Perl for all her hard work and enthusiasm for this project and to Greenwillow for seeing the worth of this subject. It gives me great satisfaction to know that thousands of school students are reading Four Perfect Pebbles, either for class assignment or on their own. The horror of the Holocaust must be taught and studied, and kept alive, in order to guard against its ever happening again.
Over the past few years, I have spoken to, and with, upwards of one million students and adults in public, private and parochial schools, organizations, synagogues and churches. I have made many beautiful friendships around the country through these talks, and always have lots of mail and e-mail with interesting comments and questions to answer.
After you read Four Perfect Pebbles, please give me your comments via e-mail. Should your school or organization desire me to make a presentation, please contact me at Marion@FourPerfectPebbles.com or by phone at 516-374-5958.
My wish to each of you is for a peaceful world, one in which there is love, respect, and tolerance for one another, regardless of religious belief, race, color of the skin, or national origin; a world in which we will look for similarities in people, and respect the differences.