The Lily Cupboard: A Story of the Holocaust by Shulamith Levey Oppenheim and illustrated by Ronald Himler is a very short children's story which introduces one aspect of the Holocaust. I was learning to read in the late 1950s and the illustrations in this wonderful book remind me of my early reading experiences. At only 32 pages The Lily Cupboard can be easily read by young readers or read to a group of children by the teacher.
Miriam is a young Jewish girl living in Holland in 1940. When the Germans invade the country, many Dutch Jews were sent to camps where they were killed. Miriam's parents arrange for her to go live in the country with a non-Jewish family. Although Miriam is very frightened, she finds some comfort in her friendship with Nello, the young son of the Gentile family. Nello allows Miriam to select a rabbit to care for on her own. The family tells Miriam that if they warn her that the Germans are coming by whistling Frere Jacques she must go hide in the cupboard which had a lily on its front. She will be safe in the cupboard. Miriam does go hide from the German soldiers. She takes her rabbit with her and vows to keep him safe just as her Jewish family and her Gentile family will keep her safe.
The open-ended nature of the book allows for as much discussion as is desired or needed by the children who read it. Was Miriam reunited with her family? How many children were hidden with other non-Jewish families? Why did brave Dutch families take in Jewish children? Why did the children, and adults, have to hide?
The book was awarded the Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies. Here is an excellent lesson plan, created by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology.
TITLE: The Lily Cupboard: A Story of the Holocaust
AUTHOR: Shulamith Levey Oppenheim
ILLUSTRATOR: Ronald Himler
TYPE: fiction, Holocaust
RECOMMEND: The Lily Cupboard is a very short book that seems to be perfectly suited to introduce that while a great many Jewish people did not survive the Holocaust, some did survive with the help of brave friends.