Aranka Siegal, one of seven children, was, raised in Beregszasz, Hungary. During World War II, when Aranka was thirteen, she and her family were moved from their home to the Beregszasz brick factory, which had been turned into a ghetto to house Jews. Shortly thereafter, they were deported to Auschwitz. Upon their arrival on May 9, 1944, she and her older sister were separated from the rest of the family, and they never saw them again. Eventually, the two girls were sent to Bergen-Belsen, and in 1945 they were rescued by the British First Army. Through the Swedish Red Cross, Aranka and her sister were then brought to Sweden, where they lived for three and a half years before emigrating to the United States.
From earliest childhood, Aranka learned reverence for books from her grandmother, Babi. She was only twelve years old when Jewish children were banned from the public schools. What books her family owned, and what few others could be obtained, became individual treasures, enabling her to escape from her world -- a world that no longer made sense.
Aranka wanted to capture in her own books the human element of the war. In Upon the Head of the Goat, she depicts the emotions of a young Jewish girl caught up in events that were to destroy her world. Grace in the Wilderness is a continuation of that story, but Aranka does not focus on life in the camps. Instead, she describes the aftermath of the war, how she and her sister had, in effect, to learn to live again. Her most recent book, Memories of Babi, is a series of stories based on the author's childhood visits with her grandmother on her farm in the Ukraine, in the years before World War II.
Aranka decided to write for young people "because they will be the recorders of history in books yet to be written . . . I know that having read my story they will remember the meaning of 'scapegoat' and refuse ever to participate in spreading prejudice . . . I believe in the importance of my message and its inherent truth as history."
When Aranka arrived in the United States in 1948, she had to learn yet another way of life and master a sixth language. She married, had two children, and when they went off to college, pursued her own higher education on a formal level. She received her B.A. in social anthropology in 1977, and for a year hosted a radio show on which she recounted her experiences in Hungary and other countries. She also became a substitute teacher and lecturer in schools and colleges. Aranka Siegal now lives in Florida.
UPON THE HEAD OF THE GOAT: A Childhood in Hungary 1939-1944, a 1982 Newbery Honor Book and the recipient of the 1982 Janusz Korezak Literary Award and the 1982 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Nonfiction, was Aranka's first book. Her second book, GRACE IN THE WILDERNESS: After the Liberation 1945-1948, was selected a Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies by the National Council for Social Studies-Children's Book Council Joint Committee.
Newbery Honor Book