Subscribe to The Horn Book

Reading for Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, an international day to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust. All of the following titles were recommended by The Horn Book Magazine and Guide at the time of their publication; reviews are reprinted from The Horn Book Guide Online. Grade levels are only suggestions; the individual child is the real criterion.

For more books for children and teens “that authentically portray the Jewish experience” — across a wide range of aspects, including the Holocaust — see the Association of Jewish Libraries’ Sydney Taylor Book Awards winners list. And for more books on fighting persecution and working for social justice, see our Making a Difference resource page.

Primary Fiction and Nonfiction

Dauvillier_HiddenDauvillier, Loïc  Hidden
78 pp.     Roaring Brook/First Second     2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-59643-873-6

Illustrated by Marc Lizano. Color by Greg Salsedo. In this graphic novel for younger readers, Elsa hears the story of her grandmother Dounia’s childhood in Nazi-occupied France. The format helps reinforce the contrast between dark, scary moments and happier times, while the art also helps focus attention on the loving family and other people who helped Dounia. Small panels tell most of the story; large ones occasionally punctuate big moments.

elvgren_whispering townElvgren, Jennifer  The Whispering Town
32 pp.     Kar-Ben     2014
Library binding ISBN 978-1-4677-1194-4
Paperback ISBN 978-1-4677-1195-1
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4677-1196-8

Illustrated by Fabio Santomauro. Annet and her family protect Danish Jews from the Nazis by hiding them in their basement and warning them when soldiers are nearby. She organizes a plan to help them get to safety by involving the neighbors. Serious subject matter is handled appropriately and delicately in this picture book, and dark, somber illustrations set the tone while still including notes of hopefulness.

kohuth_anne frank's chestnut treeKohuth, Jane  Anne Frank’s Chestnut Tree
48 pp.     Random     2013
Trade ISBN 978-0-449-81255-6
Library binding ISBN 978-0-375-97115-0
Paperback ISBN 978-0-307-97579-9

Illustrated by Elizabeth Sayles. Step into Reading series. Nature, as represented by a chestnut tree outside the Secret Annex, serves as a continuing image for this easy reader. The tree’s presence throughout Anne’s life in hiding not only gives her a sense of peace but also provides readers a respite from her ordeal. Illustrations are somber except those depicting Anne’s pre-war life or Annex visits from helpers bringing food and books. Reading list. Website.

lewis_wren and the sparrowLewis, J. Patrick  The Wren and the Sparrow
32 pp.     Kar-Ben     2015
Library binding ISBN 978-1-4677-1951-3
Paperback ISBN 978-1-4677-1952-0
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4677-6210-6

Illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg. In a Polish village, an old man known as the Wren and a girl called the Sparrow defy “the Tyrant’s guards” (in Nazi uniforms), who have come to destroy the village’s musical instruments. Years later, a boy finds the Wren’s hidden hurdy-gurdy and keeps the old man’s legacy alive. Rich-hued, angular illustrations echo the lyrical text’s themes of hope, despair, and remembrance.

Marcel Marceau: Master of MimeSpielman, Gloria  Marcel Marceau: Master of Mime
32 pp.     Kar-Ben     2011
Trade ISBN 978-0-7613-3961-8
Paperback ISBN 978-0-7613-3962-5

Illustrated by Manon Gauthier. Spielman’s understated picture book biography covers fascinating events of Marceau’s early life. At sixteen, he and his brother fled the Nazis and became active in the French Resistance. Because of his ability to entertain, Marcel was tapped to smuggle Jewish children out of France. Gauthier’s softly colored line drawings perfectly capture the gentle spirit of the performer, both off and on stage.

yolen_stone angelYolen, Jane  Stone Angel
36 pp.     Philomel     2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-399-16741-6

Illustrated by Katie May Green. When the Nazis occupy Paris, a Jewish girl and her family flee to the woods, then to England. Throughout their exile, the young narrator is certain angels will protect them. Fatefully, a colossal angel adorns their new apartment building after the war. A carefully cadenced narrative conveys the enduring strength of family and faith, and calm mixed-media illustrations reinforce that theme.

 

Intermediate Fiction and Nonfiction

appelfeld_adam and thomasAppelfeld, Aharon  Adam & Thomas
159 pp.     Seven Stories     2015
Trade ISBN 978-1-60980-634-7
Ebook ISBN 978-1-60980-652-1

Illustrated by Philippe Dumas. During WWII, nine-year-old Adam and his classmate Thomas are led by their parents from their ghetto home into the forest to survive. They build a sort-of nest for shelter and wait, passing time by discussing war, religion, and philosophy. The lyrical, parable-like story takes place nearly outside time and place (there are occasional key markers); a fascinating author’s note describes Appelfeld’s own WWII experiences.

gratz_prisoner b-3087Gratz, Alan  Prisoner B-3087
260 pp.     Scholastic     2013
Trade ISBN 978-0-545-45901-3

A fictionalization of a true story, this Holocaust narrative follows Yanek Gruener from his childhood in the Krakow ghetto through a brutal adolescence struggling to survive ten different concentration camps. The unimaginable horrors Yanek faces are portrayed in spare but unflinching detail. Occasional transcendent moments of beauty, nobility, or kindness sustain Yanek and readers alike.

Rescuing the Children by Deborah HodgeHodge, Deborah  Rescuing the Children: The Story of the Kindertransport
60 pp.     Tundra     2012
Trade ISBN 978-1-77049-256-1

Hodge describes the Kindertransport that rescued nearly ten thousand Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Europe and brought them to Britain between 1938 and 1939. Chapters covering events leading up to and following the mission are sprinkled with 1930s–era art, archival photographs, and sidebars of anecdotes from eight featured survivors, all of which strengthen the book’s impact. Reading list, timeline, websites. Glos.

freedman_we will not be silentFreedman, Russell  We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler
104 pp.     Clarion     2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-544-22379-0

Freedman’s latest photohistory is an excellent overview of the White Rose resistance movement, a group of university students who, beginning in June 1942 in Munich, Germany, risked their lives to write and distribute leaflets denouncing the Nazi regime. Freedman not only writes with clarity and pace but augments his text with primary-source quotes and photographs that add power and immediacy. Bib., ind.

leyson_BoyonWoodenBox_225x300Leyson, Leon, Harran, Marilyn J. and Leyson, Elisabeth B.  The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible…on Schindler’s List
232 pp.     Atheneum     2013
Trade ISBN 978-1-4424-9781-8

Leon Leyson (born Leib Lejzon in 1929) acknowledges that he was “an unlikely survivor of the Holocaust,” saved from extermination by his father’s lucky place in Oskar Schindler’s Kraków factory. Leyson’s account of his childhood in pre-war Poland and under the Nazi occupation stands out for its brisk and unsentimental style and for its human scale. The tone is forthright and almost grandfatherly. Websites.

rubin_irena sendlerRubin, Susan Goldman  Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto
40 pp.     Holiday     2011
Trade ISBN 978-0-8234-2251-7

Illustrated by Bill Farnsworth. Disguised as a nurse, Irena Sendler covertly rescued nearly four hundred children from the Warsaw ghetto, smuggling them out in trucks, potato sacks, and coffins; teaching them Catholic prayers to disguise their origin; and finding them shelter in homes and convents. Farnsworth’s dramatic oils convey the danger and urgency of Sendler’s mission, which Rubin details with brisk clarity. Bib., ind.

sax_war within these wallsSax, Aline  The War Within These Walls
175 pp.     Eerdmans     2013
Trade ISBN 978-0-8028-5428-5

Illustrated by Caryl Strzelecki. The narrator lives with his parents and sister in what becomes the Warsaw Ghetto. He finds a secret escape from the ghetto and begins smuggling food, eventually joining with Mordechai Anielewicz’s organized Resistance. The prose is spare; the book’s format, with text on black or white pages and plentiful ink and wash illustrations, is dramatic and will grab young readers.

Terezin by Ruth ThomsonThomson, Ruth  Terezín: Voices from the Holocaust
64 pp.     Candlewick     2011
Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-4963-0

Terezín was used by Nazi propagandists to show the world how well Jews were treated in concentration camps. Thomson examines the place through memoirs and diary excerpts, documentary photos, and artwork (some made for the Germans and some created secretly). Examples of the ways in which culture flourished along with the horrors of death from starvation and disease are represented in equal measure. Timeline, Bib., glos., ind.

 

Young Adult Fiction and Nonfiction

atwood_women heroes of world war iiAtwood, Kathryn J.  Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue
266 pp.     Chicago     2011
Trade ISBN 978-1-55652-961-0

Organized by country, the text profiles women throughout Europe and the U.S. who fought back against the Nazis by hiding Jews in their homes, spying for the Resistance, or even working as assassins. Atwood skillfully weaves in personal details about her subjects to give readers a solid feel for who they were and why they risked so much to save others. Bib., glos., ind.

borden_his name was raoul wallenbergBorden, Louise  His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg: Courage, Rescue, and Mystery During World War II
136 pp.     Houghton     2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-618-50755-9

In Hungary in 1944, Wallenberg became involved in trying to save the Jews of Budapest and in so doing became “the world’s conscience and voice.” In this thoroughly researched and well-documented volume, Borden uses the power of free verse and vigorous language to infuse the text with an energy perfect for revealing Wallenberg’s deeds. Appended with “more on Raoul Wallenberg’s story.” Bib., ind.

nazi huntersBascomb, Neal  The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi
240 pp.     Scholastic/Levine     2013
Trade ISBN 978-0-545-43099-9

The first chapter outlines Adolph Eichmann’s wartime activities and 1945 escape from the Allies; the last sees him in 1961 on trial for his crimes. Thriller fans will find all their favorite plot points here, from disguises and coded messages to abduction and interrogation; Bascomb keeps on the right side of the fine line that distinguishes suspense from sensationalism. Photographs appear throughout. Bib., ind.

cohen-scali_max

Cohen-Scali, Sarah  Max
421 pp.     Porter/Roaring Brook    2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-62672-071-8

Translated by Penny Hueston. Konrad is raised without empathy or affection in a Nazi orphanage and indoctrinated with Nazi ideology. Then he befriends teenage Lukas — blond, blue-eyed, indomitable, and Jewish — and begins to question Nazi propaganda. In an unusual move, the first-person narrative opens with Konrad addressing us from the womb — a way for Cohen-Scali to illustrate the depth of his relentless, propagandistic formation, and what it costs him in stunting his humanity.

deem_prisoners of breendonkDeem, James M.  The Prisoners of Breendonk: Personal Histories from a World War II Concentration Camp
340 pp.     Houghton     2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-544-09664-6

When the Nazis invaded Belgium, they turned WWI fort Breendonk into a “reception” camp to hold prisoners until their release or transport to other camps. This chronological history of Breendonk combines dozens of personal histories, black-and-white period photographs, full-color contemporary photographs, and archival sketches by inmate Jacques Ochs. These touches give this chronicle an intimate feel, underscoring the inhumanity that so many suffered. Bib., ind.

The Boys Who Challenged HitlerHoose, Phillip  The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club
198 pp.     Farrar     2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-374-30022-7
Ebook ISBN 978-0-374-30272-6

When Hitler invaded Denmark, teenaged Knud Pedersen (with his brother and some mates) engaged in civil disobedience, inspiring a larger-scale Danish revolt. Hoose brilliantly weaves Pedersen’s own words into the larger narrative of wartime Denmark, showing how the astonishing bravery of ordinary Danish teens started something extraordinary. An outstanding addition to the WWII canon. Bib., ind.

hopkinson_courage and defiance 2Hopkinson, Deborah  Courage & Defiance: Stories of Spies, Saboteurs, and Survivors in World War II Denmark
339 pp.     Scholastic     2015
ISBN 978-0-545-59220-8

In April 1940, the Danish government pretty much rolled out the red carpet for Hitler’s army. What no one foresaw was the way many Danes, angered by their leaders’ capitulation, would fight back. Some spied on the Germans; others aided Danish Jews. Hopkinson pulls together these narratives with truly propulsive storytelling and great attention to the humanity involved. Reading list, timeline, websites. Bib., ind.

joffo_bag of marblesJoffo, Joseph  A Bag of Marbles
128 pp.     Lerner/Graphic Universe     2013
Library binding ISBN 978-1-4677-0700-8
Paperback ISBN 978-1-4677-1516-4

Adapted by Kris. Illustrated by Vincent Bailly. Translated by Edward Gauvin. In this graphic novel (adapted from Joffo’s 1973 adult memoir), Jo and his brother Maurice stay one step ahead of the Nazis as they travel through southern France, hoping to reunite with their brothers near the Italian border. The book’s relatively busy layout is balanced by Bailly’s gorgeously detailed illustrations. A map of wartime France, a glossary, and an author’s note are included.

kaurin_almost autumnKaurin, Marianne  Almost Autumn
281 pp.     Levine/Scholastic     2017
Trade ISBN 978-0-545-88965-0
Ebook ISBN 978-0-545-88966-7

Translated by Rosie Hedger. Ilse Stern lives with her Jewish family in 1942 Nazi-occupied Oslo. Throughout everything runs an oppressive sense of dread — telegraphed through Kaurin’s spare, tense prose — as we learn that Ilse’s school has closed, that her father must scrub ugly anti-Semitic graffiti from his shop window each morning, that the family spends nights in an air-raid shelter with neighbors who no longer speak to them. Then, her father is arrested in a citywide roundup in October; Ilse’s mother and sisters, a month later. It should be noted that the novel’s immediacy becomes almost unbearable at points (for instance, when Ilse’s mother and sisters enter the shower room at Auschwitz). Not an easy read, and one that requires historical context for full comprehension; an appended note supplies some of the necessary background.

lasky_extraLasky, Kathryn  The Extra
314 pp.     Candlewick     2013
Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-3972-3

Lilo is fifteen when she and her family, ethnic Romani, are picked up by the Nazis and conscripted as “extras” in a film made by Hitler’s favorite filmmaker, Leni Riefenstahl. Lilo is a strong heroine who survives the war by a combination of luck, determination, and wits. This disturbing novel covers a little-known aspect of European history.

mccormick_plot-to-kill-hitlerMcCormick, Patricia  The Plot to Kill Hitler: Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Spy, Unlikely Hero
174 pp.     HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray     2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-241108-2
Ebook ISBN 978-0-06-241110-5

In April 1943, the Gestapo arrested pacifist Lutheran minister Dietrich Bonhoeffer for attempting to assassinate Hitler. Alongside Bonhoeffer’s religious calling and theological contributions, McCormick chillingly details Hitler’s rise to power. When Bonhoeffer could not gather support from the religious community to fight Hitler, he decided to “sin boldly.” Questions of moral authority drive the story; archival photographs supplement the text. Timeline. Bib., ind.

prins_hidden like anne frankPrins, Marcel and Steenhuis, Peter Henk  Hidden like Anne Frank: Fourteen True Stories of Survival
226 pp.     Scholastic/Levine     2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-545-54362-0
Ebook ISBN 978-0-545-54363-7

Translated by Laura Watkinson. This volume includes compelling first-person accounts of survival during the Holocaust and WWII in Holland, including coauthor Prins’s mother’s experience. Readers will encounter incredible acts of courage, both from the subjects themselves and the Resistance fighters and ordinary people willing to risk their lives. Family photos and archival images appear throughout; a glossary and pictures of the survivors today are appended.

Beyond Courage by Doreen RappaportRappaport, Doreen  Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust
228 pp.     Candlewick     2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-2976-2

Rappaport profiles twenty Jewish resistance efforts — from defiance to outright fighting and escape — grouped by theme and introduced with essays, collectively presenting a comprehensive portrait. The power of Holocaust literature derives from the double witness of the horror of Hitler’s Final Solution and the resiliency of humankind in the face of that atrocity; that remains true here. Photographs complement the narrative. Timeline. Bib., ind.

savit_anna_swallowSavit, Gavriel  Anna and the Swallow Man
232 pp.     Knopf     2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-553-51334-9
Library binding ISBN 978-0-553-52206-8
Ebook ISBN 978-0-553-52207-5

In 1939 Kraków, Poland, orphaned seven-year-old Anna follows a mysterious man, who seems to communicate with birds, out of the city; as days become months, then years, the Swallow Man teaches Anna life lessons and survival skills. The third-person narrative — lyrical, fluid, with a pervasive shadow of menace — lends a folkloric feel to a graceful story steeped in history, magic, myth, and archetype.

thor_Deep seaThor, Annika  Deep Sea
231 pp.     Delacorte     2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-385-74385-3
Library binding ISBN 978-0-375-99132-5
Ebook ISBN 978-0-385-37134-6

Translated by Linda Schenck. Stephie (A Faraway Island; The Lily Pond), now sixteen, has a host of worries: her parents are prisoners in Theresienstadt; she and sister Nellie are estranged; and her education is in jeopardy. Several life-changing events push Stephie toward adulthood (and make this series entry a book for older readers). Present tense and a limited third-person narration give the story unusual immediacy and impact.

wein_rose under fireWein, Elizabeth  Rose Under Fire
360 pp.     Hyperion     2013
Trade ISBN 978-1-4231-8309-9

Rose Justice, an eighteen-year-old American pilot delivering personnel and planes for Britain in 1944, is captured and sent to notorious German women’s concentration camp Ravensbrück; she’s befriended by victims of Nazi doctors’ medical experiments. Companion to Code Name Verity, this is a powerful, moving, consistently involving story of female friendship in WWII written as a combination of journal entries, letters, and survivor’s account. Websites. Bib., glos.

wiviott_paper heartsWiviott, Meg  Paper Hearts
337 pp.     McElderry     2015
Trade ISBN 978-1-4814-3983-1
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-3985-5

In this verse novel based on real events, women in Auschwitz survive in part due to their great friendship and support of one another; Zlatka, in secret and at great risk, crafts a heart-shaped birthday card for her friend Fania, and the other women sign it with love and affection. The stirring chapters alternate between Zlatka and Fania’s poetic, determined voices. Bib.

Share

Comments

  1. Great collection. But a somber reminder of that dark and horrendous part of human history…

Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind

*