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The class book review: The Red Ribbon

Gritty historial fiction with a symbol of hope

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Gritty historial fiction with a symbol of hope

The Red Ribbon
By Lucy Adlington
Hot Key Books
304pp, £10.99, hardback
ISBN: 9781471406287


The Red Ribbon is a fascinating account of a Jewish girl’s incarceration in Auschwitz-Birkenau during the Second World War.

Working in the camp’s sewing workshop, Ella befriends Rose, who teaches her to escape their harsh environment through telling imaginative stories. Rose gives Ella a piece of red ribbon, which becomes their symbol of hope.

This is a well-crafted story, likely to appeal to readers who enjoy gritty historical fiction, such as The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and Private Peaceful.

Natalia Marshall is learning resource centre manager at The Compton School in North London

Pupil reviews

Unexpected twists, turns and friendship

‘Be prepared with a box of tissues’

This sensitively written book has an emotional impact on the reader. I also loved the eye-catching illustrations that run throughout the book.

There is a great mix of characters, and the book is full of surprising twists and turns. Ella’s bolshie behaviour makes the story more interesting and I loved the way in which her predicament highlights how hard it is to make moral choices.

The theme of hope running throughout the book and the sadness of that time brought tears to my eyes and gave me goosebumps. It is a disturbing, heartbreaking story – especially as it is based on true events.

I would definitely recommend this book, because it is so interesting and unexpected. It really left an impression on me – but be prepared with a box of tissues!

Natalia Mazurkiewicz, Year 10


‘More suitable for readers who are into design’

The first part of the story didn’t make it clear what era it was, until concentration camps were mentioned. Then it became clear that it was set during the Second World War, looking at how female prisoners in Auschwitz were desperate for jobs in the sewing room because they got better treatment there than elsewhere in the camp.

I like books that have a historical setting, but a lot of this book is about fashion and sewing, so it would be more suitable for readers who are into design.

However, I am curious about how hard life in concentration camps must have been.

I felt the story had good descriptions of friendship and I was intrigued to see how the friendship between the characters developed, because of their complete lack of freedom.

Lion Malhamoub, Year 9


‘Dramatic reveals …but slow-paced’

I liked the mix of light-hearted happiness Ella and Rose experienced in the book, as well as the dramatic reveals in the story, such as when we find out Ella is actually in Auschwitz.

I also liked the friendship between Rose and Ella and enjoyed the scenes where this friendship is the strongest, such as when Ella decides not to escape the camp, in order to stay with Rose, who is ill in the camp’s horrible hospital.

However, I was less keen on the story’s slow pace and would have enjoyed it more if had progressed slightly faster.

Emily Moore, Year 10


‘Sudden twists and a bittersweet ending’

The Red Ribbon is an extraordinary book based on the life of 14-year-old Ella, a Jewish girl during the Holocaust who was kidnapped by “Them” while she was walking home from school.

Barely surviving the concentration camp, with almost no food and cruel punishments, she fought for the privilege of working at the camp’s sewing workshop. Here she meets Rose. They form an unusual but very close friendship. Rose teaches Ella about the power of stories, helping her forget the hideous realities of prison life.

Eventually, as the war ends, they escape from this harsh, cruel camp back into the real world where they are safe – and meet many friends along the way. They get their dream shop in the City of Lights – Paris – sewing their way to success.

I found this book extremely moving, a great read for anyone who loves bittersweet endings and sudden twists.

Bibi Maimona Farid, Year 9


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