I was born sometime in 1944.
I do not know my birthdate.
I do not know my birth name...
What I do know is that when I was just a few months old, I was saved from the Holocaust. (p. 1)
This is the beginning of Erika's story. She was thrown from a train to by her parents to escape the Holocaust. Author Ruth Vander Zee was traveling in Germany in 1995 when she met Erika sitting outside a tornado demolished building. Vander Zee allows Erika to tell her story through this book - with words and pictures. Erika wonders how her parents felt as they threw her to an uncertain future, hopefully to live instead of to die. As she ages, Erika marries and has children of her own. She reminds us that it was once said that my people would be as many as the stars in the heavens. Although six millions stars fell during the Holocaust, Erika's star is still shining and I am glad she shared her story with first Vander Zee and the now the world.
The illustrations are beyond wonderful. In fact, all but a few resemble photographs, although one can see that they are not. These "photographs" are all black and white or muted blue tones. The only colors are the yellow stars worn on the chests of the people in the cattle car and the pink blanket wrapped around the young baby girl. The emphasis created with this use of color is haunting. The cover (seen above) is also quite interesting with a black and beige background with a cut out star in the center which has a yellow background. Behind the star is a fence with the German word VERBOTEN, which means forbidden. A very powerful mental picture.
The author provides a Teachers' Resource Guide with a very nice assortment of materials for use with students.
TITLE: Erika's Story
AUTHOR: Ruth Vander Zee
ILLUSTRATOR: Roberto Innocenti
TYPE: Holocaust narrative
RECOMMEND: The book is so simple, yet powerful in its simplicity. The illustrations alone are stunning and combined with the narrative the book is an excellent resource.