The Honey Jar: An Armenian’s Escape to Freedom

Written by Joan Schoettler
Review by Elizabeth Caulfield Felt

When Turkish soldiers move into the city of Kars in 1920, they harass and threaten the Armenian residents, forcing an exodus. As Mama is too sick to leave, Papa entrusts eight-year-old Bedros with the care of his three sisters, ages six, four, and two, and forces them to flee the city. The young ones travel with their grandmother and uncle’s family, and Mama and Papa will try to meet them in Alexandrapol before the group heads to America. Unfortunately, Bedros and his sisters get separated from the adults. Now Bedros must keep his three little sisters safe, warm, fed, and entertained—as well as encourage them to keep walking, even when they are exhausted. It is an impossible task for a boy so young, and Bedros will end up making a decision he will long regret.

The Honey Jar is a novel-in-verse, each poem-chapter short, powerful, and easy to read. The dangers presented by the soldiers, the environment, and hunger keep the story suspenseful and engaging. Children will relate to the awesome responsibility Bedros feels for his sisters, as well as the unfairness. He is too young and has been asked to do too much. The Honey Jar is a gripping story. Its short chapters expertly show what it means to be a refugee, the difficulty of leaving everything you know, and the fear and pain suffered when families are separated. Author notes explain how the story was based on a real story, with pictures of the Armenian families. The end material also includes information of the Armenian genocide. Highly recommended. 8-12 years old.