Holocaust Remembrance Day 2020

Today is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. I’ve written before about the valuable role children’s and YA books about the Holocaust have played in my reading life. In some ways, my views about Holocaust literature shifted during my two years on the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee, which concluded recently. Seeing all the Jewish books published for young people in two given years did make it clear to me that a disproportionate number focus on this brief but indelible period in our history — even or especially because events during those two years made Holocaust-related stories feel sadly more relevant.

But numbers aside, these are stories worth telling (and most readers, after all, don’t read entire subgenres at once). As reminders, as cautionary tales, as lenses for looking at other events, past or present. See our updated Holocaust Remembrance Day booklist for recommended titles worth reading, and see also my committee-mate Marjorie Ingall's article "Happy Anniversary: Number the Stars."

We the planet are going through another serious event now, though a very different one (and the difficulties each of us is experiencing personally range from minor to extreme). Maybe you, or the young people in your life, understandably don’t want to read sad books these days (which goes back to proportions — we should all get to see ourselves represented without reading something sad). But maybe reading a book about people coping in difficult times is just the thing. Maybe an engrossing story and a cathartic cry, removed from the current circumstances, would help.

That’s a great thing about books, all kinds of books: they’re ready for you when you need them.

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 especially its "Love Your Neighbor" booklist series. Also check out Heidi Rabinowitz and Sadaf Siddique’s article “We Need Diverse Jewish and Muslim Books: A Conversation.”

Shoshana Flax
Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor of The Horn Book Magazine, is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons University. She was a 2019-2020 member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

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