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