Posts Tagged ‘avi katz’

liesl's ocean rescue

Source: Review copy from Gihon River Press
Rating: ★★★★☆

On the ship, Liesl could eat whatever she wanted.  She could walk freely around the ship and see movies in the recreation room whenever they played.  Back in Germany, she could only eat rationed bread and eggs.  And Jews like Liesl and her family weren’t allowed to stroll in the park, walk on the sidewalk, or go to the movies.

(from Liesl’s Ocean Rescue)

Quick summary: Liesl’s Ocean Rescue is a picture book based on the true story of Liesl Joseph, who was one of around 900 Jews to escape Germany on the MS St. Louis.  The ship left Hamburg in May 1939 bound for Havana, Cuba, but the fate of the passengers hung in the balance when they were denied entry to Cuba and the United States, generating chaos and fear when they learned they were ordered to return to Germany.  The captain and a committee comprised of some passengers scrambled to find other countries that would take them.

Why I wanted to read it: I was curious how the subject would be handled in a children’s book.

What I liked: Barbara Krasner tells the story through the eyes of a young girl who doesn’t understand why her freedoms have been taken away and why her family must leave their home in Germany forever.  Readers see how the voyage to Cuba was a carefree one for Liesl, with so much promise, and how the fear returned when they were not allowed to leave the ship.  Avi Katz’s illustrations are fantastic in that they capture the myriad emotions on the character’s faces, from hope to fear to joy.  At the end of the story, there is an author’s note that lets readers know what happened to Liesl and her family after the MS St. Louis, and there is a bibliography with a list of books and DVDs to learn more.

What I disliked: There was nothing to dislike.  Krasner and Katz did a wonderful job adapting such a heavy story for a younger audience.

Final thoughts: Liesl’s Ocean Rescue is a gentle introduction to the Holocaust for children.  Of course, the book doesn’t touch upon reports that around 227 of the 915 refugees perished in the Holocaust after being given refuge in European countries that eventually were occupied by the Nazis.  But it does explain why Liesl’s family had to leave Germany and what happened on the ship in a way that children can begin to understand the history of the time, even if it really is impossible to truly comprehend why these things happened.  Parents can use the book as an introduction to the events leading up to World War II and the horrors of the Holocaust, providing an opportunity for deeper discussions later.

war challenge with a twist

Book 24 for the War Challenge With a Twist (WWII)

Disclosure: I received Liesl’s Ocean Rescue from Gihon River Press for review.

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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the tattered prayer book

Source: Review copy from Gihon River Press
Rating: ★★★★☆

The next day I saw our synagogue in ruins and I cried.  Burned prayer books were everywhere.  When no one was looking, I hid this one in my coat.  I wanted a reminder of the place where I had been so happy.

(from The Tattered Prayer Book)

The Tattered Prayer Book by Ellen Bari is a picture book intended to be a gentle introduction to the Holocaust.  When Ruthie finds a box of old photos at her grandmother’s house in a box marked “Germany,” she discovers a tattered and burned Jewish prayer book and learns that it belonged to her father when he was a young boy.  Ruthie is surprised to learn that her father was born in Germany, and despite his desire to forget, he tells her his story.

Ruthie’s father describes the happy life he enjoyed in Hamburg and how everything changed after the Nazis came to power.  He tells her about the friends he lost, the prayer book he found on the Night of Broken Glass (Kristallnacht) in 1938, and how he and his family came to live in America.  He remembers the comfort the prayer book gave him and is grateful for the discussion prompted by Ruthie’s question.

With Avi Katz’s illustrations, which have an old-book look about them, The Tattered Prayer Book puts readers in the shoes of a young boy who witnesses so much hatred and fear yet does not lose hope.  There is no mention of the death camps, mass shootings, or the systematic slaughter of millions of people, so parents need not worry that they are sharing too much too soon.  But it definitely is a book that will spark questions, as children struggle to understand why the synagogues were burned, why Ruthie’s father lost his friends, and why his family had to leave their home.

The Tattered Prayer Book is more than an introduction to the Holocaust.  Ultimately, it emphasizes the pain of remembering but how doing so can both honor those who perished and teach children about a period in history that should never be repeated.  Just like Ruthie’s father used the prayer book as a reminder of the good times in Germany, Ruthie’s curiosity is a reminder that children long to understand and are our hope for the future.

Disclosure: I received The Tattered Prayer Book from Gihon River Press for review.

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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