In 2004 somebody firebombed the library at Montreal’s United Talmud Torahs School, and thousands of books got burned. But within a few months they had collected even more books and rebuilt the library. When it re-opened I went to Montreal to tell stories at the school, and while I was there I stayed with Arie’s family. He told me that he was the only kid in the whole school who had red hair, so I wrote this story about him and his friend Alex.
The school gave me a thank-you gift when I left. It was a copy of one of my books from the original library, with the edges all burned, in a beautiful frame, and it says: “They can burn our books but not our spirit.” Nobody had ever given me anything like that before.
Seeing Red was published eight years later, and I sent copies of it to the school. The librarian sent back photos of Arie and Alex with the books – they were in grade ten by then and Arie’s hair was still very, very red.