Results of the Batchelder Award in the year 1999.
Susie Weksler was only eight in 1941 when Hitler's forces invaded her Lithuanian city of Vilnius, a great center for Jewish learning and culture. Soon her family would face hunger and fear in the Jewish ghetto — but worse was to come. When the ghetto was liquidated, some Jews were selected for forced labor camps; the rest were killed. Susie would live — because of the courage and ingenuity of her mother. It was her mother who carried Susie, hidden in a backpack, to the group destined for the labor camps; who disguised her as an adult in makeup and turban to fool the camp guards; who fed her body and soul through gruesome conditions in three concentration camps and a winter "death march"; who showed her the power of the human spirit to endure.
Ernest Morlaisse leads an unadventurous life. He comes home every day and eats the same snack: a green apple and a cracker and then he sits down to do his homework. Enter Victoria de Montardent, the new girl in class. When Victoria sees Ernest it's love at first sight. And she makes her declaration to everyone: "I love Ernestà. We're getting married in thirteen years, eight months and three days. This is an invitation to our wedding." And believe it or not, Victoria's bulldozer approach works!
Quickly Ernest begins to discover that beating inside his chestà is his heart. And he begins finding ways to use it.