Thursday, December 18, 2008

Four Perfect Pebbles

Four Perfect Pebbles: A Holocaust Story
Lila Perl and Marion Blumenthal Lazan

This is the story of Marion Blumenthal whose Jewish family fled from Germany during WWII. While waiting for immigration to the United States, the family was held at Westerbork, Auschwitz, sent on the death train, finally rescued, and spent time in a refuge camp. Marion was only 4 when this nightmare began. She hoped that her magical thinking about always finding four perfect pebbles, which represented her family members, would keep them safe. This book is intended for middle school readers and would serve as an excellent Holocaust narrative if students want to read beyond some of the classics.The author maintains her website at Four Perfect Pebbles.

TITLE: Four Perfet Pebbles
AUTHOR: Lila Perl and Marion Blumenthal Lazan
PAGES: 130
TYPE: non-fiction, autobiographical Holocaust narrative
AWARDS: "Best of the Bunch" Sydney Taylor Award Committee/Association of Jewish Librarians

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Memories of Anne Frank: Reflection of a Childhood Friend

I have been to Amsterdam. I have walked from the center of town, along the canals, to visit the house where Anne Frank and her family hid. I walked through the small spaces and stood in front of Anne’s diary. It was a humbling and emotional moment. It brought the book Diary of a Young Girl to life; intensified the feelings I remembered from multiple readings of this classic Holocaust biography.

But Reflections of a Childhood Friend is more than the story of Anne Frank, it is the story of Hannah Goslar who was friends with Anne from age four until Anne died shortly after being reunited with Hannah in Bergen-Belsen. It was not until after the war that Hannah realized that Anne had not lived but had died shortly before the camp was liberated. I am grateful to Hannah for telling her story and for Alison Gold for recording it in a way that young people can read and appreciate.

Hannah’s story is equally compelling as she was separated from her family with only her younger sister to care for as they were “relocated” from Amsterdam to Westerbork to Bergen-Belsen. The courage of these women who were but young girls is inspiring and through Hannah’s memories, readers will gain a greater understanding of the hardships which were endured and the friendships which were held so close.

TITLE: Memories of Anne Frank: Reflections of a Childhood Friend
AUTHOR: Alison Leslie Gold
PAGES: 135
TYPE: non-fiction
RECOMMEND: I found this book, with photographs, to add to the Anne Frank story, as well as introducing me to another survivor.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Butterfly by Patricia Polacco

The Butterfly by Patricia Polacco tells the true story of the author’s aunt who lived in France during the Nazi occupation in World War II. In a very touching and light-handed manner, Polacco introduces the harshness of the Jewish Holocaust. Monique was a young girl during this period and finds that her mother has been hiding French Jews in their basement. She and a little girl her age discover one another and share their thoughts and dreams. When the family is on the verge of discovery, Monique’s mother assists in the family’s attempt to escape. The papillon, or butterfly, is a symbol of the freedom that should be standard for each person in the world as well as the violence that crushes that freedom. Although this story is not all happy endings, the subject of the Holocaust is introduced in manner that would be acceptable for younger children.

Polacco’s website provides a number of interactive activities and video clips of the real life people in this beautiful story. Another interesting idea to go along with this book would be The Butterfly Project of the Holocaust Museum of Houston. They are hoping to collect 1.5 million hand made butterflies by 2012 to represent the “innocent children who perished in the Holocaust”. Although it will be just two little butterflies, I am sending mine off to the museum and hope that you will as well. If you are an educator, please consider having your students do the same.

TITLE: The Butterfly
AUTHOR: Patricia Polacco
TYPE: non-fiction, historical

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hana's Suitcase by Karen Levine

Hana’s Suitcase is the story of one woman’s successful attempts to bring the Holocaust alive for Japanese children. It is also the story of Czech Jew Hana Brady and her brother George, who survived the Holocaust without knowing his sister’s final fate. Fumiko Ishioka, Director of the Tokyo Holocaust Education and Resource Center, wanted to have just one item from the Holocaust that Japanese children could touch and relate to – so they would really understand the harsh reality of the Holocaust. Fumiko was given Hana’s suitcase. On behalf of the Japanese children who visited the museum, Fumiko worked tirelessly to find out more about Hana. The book tells this story. It is a wonderful testament to the good people of this world who make a difference in the lives of children everywhere. And in some ways, Fumiko’s quest reunited George with the memory of his sister.

The story was first told by Paul Lungen in an article in the Canadian Jewish News. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Radio presented a documentary by the author, Karen Levine in January 2001. You can listen to it here. In addition, there are many remarkable links from this broadcast page. Another interesting development with this book is the production of a play: Holocaust story makes theatre debut, as it is reported in the Canadian Jewish News.

TITLE: Hana’s Suitcase
AUTHOR: Karen Levine
PAGES: 111
TYPE: non-fiction
AWARDS: 2002 Award for Older Readers, Association of Jewish Libraries Sydney Taylor Book Awards