Reading for Holocaust Remembrance Day

International Holocaust Remembrance Day (established by the United Nations General Assembly) is January 27 and Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel, the United States, and other countries) is in April or May (in 2023 it's April 18). 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 Guide/Reviews Database. Grade levels are only suggestions; the individual child is the real criterion.

And don't miss Hazel Rochman's seminal 2006 Horn Book Magazine article "Beyond Oral History: What Makes a Good Holocaust Book?" and "We Need Diverse Jewish and Muslim Books: A Conversation" by Heidi Rabinowitz and Sadaf Siddique (plus their forthcoming update to that article, which will appear in the May/June 2023 Horn Book Magazine Special Issue: Diverse Books: Past, Present, and Future).

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.


Primary Fiction and Nonfiction

Argaman, Iris  Bear and Fred: A World War II Story
48 pp.    Amazon Crossing Kids    2020
Trade ISBN 978-1-5420-1821-0

Translated by Annette Appel. Illustrated by Avi Ofer. A teddy bear on display at Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust museum, narrates this picture book based on a true story from the Holocaust. The stuffed bear recalls his journey with young owner Fred from their home in Delft, Holland, to Fred's grandfather's house in Amsterdam — the family has been warned that "people would come and force us to leave" — and eventually to a stranger's home for the duration of the war. Short lines of text are surrounded by plenty of white space. The loose-lined, digital illustrations are similarly spare, though the light brown of the visibly well-loved Bear and the yellow of the stars sewn onto Jewish characters' clothing stand out. That the events are seen through innocent eyes allows for the posing of basic questions: "Why did we have to hide?" and "Why couldn't [Fred] tell anyone who he was? Did he do something bad?" A historical note at the front provides more specific information about the Holocaust, making the book useful as a discussion starter for those new to this part of history. Back matter includes an author's note and a letter from "Fred's Bear" (complete with photo), establishing both title characters as real figures.


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 ISBN 978-1-4677-1194-4
Paper 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 ISBN 978-0-375-97115-0
Paper 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 ISBN 978-1-4677-1951-3
Paper 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.


Schubert, Leda  Monsieur Marceau
40 pp.    Roaring Brook/Porter   2012
Trade ISBN 978-1-59643-529-2 

Illustrated by Gérard DuBois. In this biography of Marcel Marceau (alter-ego, mime Bip), declarative sentences artfully capture the performer's essence. The emphasis is on Marceau as an artist, but Schubert doesn't shy away from his persecution as a Jew during the Holocaust. DuBois's vigorous illustrations strikingly cast Marceau as a mostly white figure against black backgrounds. An afterword and miming tips are appended. Reading list.


Sís, Peter Nicky & Vera: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued
64 pp.    Norton    2021
Trade ISBN 978-1-324-01574-1
Ebook ISBN 978-1-324-01575-8

At the end of 1938, when the Germans invaded the border region of Czechoslovakia, a young Englishman named Nicky arranged for the transport of 669 children from there to England, where they were settled with families to live out the war. In this remarkable book, Sís weaves Nicky's story with that of Vera, a Czech child who was one of those Nicky saved. The story does not end with the transport but includes the post-war years as Vera returns to Czechoslovakia in search of her parents and cousins (none survived) and returns to England for good; and as Nicky's quiet, productive life unfolds. Sís tells this multi-stranded tale in prose that is as understated as Nicholas Winton (as Nicky is eventually identified in the back matter) was himself and in illustrations that capture the complexity and heartbreaking emotion of the tale. For example, Vera kept a diary during the war, and Sís illustrates the years during which Vera lived with her foster family against a grid of diary pages; small squares include drawings such as a child with a violin, fish and chips, and a radio, all representing her years growing up in England. On subsequent pages, text overlays more journal pages, these covered with minuscule handwriting as time passes and Vera searches for family. In a final spread, when an elderly Nicholas Winton is publicly recognized for his quiet heroism and introduced to the adults he saved as children, each adult faces a seated Winton, and, inside each outline, Sís has drawn the child they were when they left Czechoslovakia. This is an exceptional story told with a powerful combination of words and pictures to engage both those who know some history of the Holocaust and those new to the topic. An appended note tells more about Nicholas Winton and Vera Diamantova.


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


Stelson, Caren  Stars of the Night: The Courageous Children of the Czech Kindertransport
40 pp.    Carolrhoda    2023
Trade ISBN 978-1-5415-9868-3

Illustrated by Selina Alko. In this quiet but immediate nonfiction picture book, Stelson (A Bowl Full of Peace, rev. 7/20) tells the story of the 669 children evacuated from Czechoslovakia via the Kindertransport in the late 1930s, to escape the Nazis, with the help of Nicholas Winton. The first-person-plural narration mainly sticks to the collective point of view of the children, letting readers experience their bewilderment first at the early signs of war and persecution and then at the unexplained "holiday to England" without their parents; occasional "none of us knew" asides hint at the help Winton was providing behind the scenes. As time passes and the war ends, the narrators find out (along with readers) that most of their parents have perished during the Holocaust, and they later learn Winton's identity. The in-the-moment text combines with emotional acrylic, colored-pencil, and collage illustrations in Alko's (I Is for Immigrants, rev. 9/21) signature style to create a dreamlike atmosphere. Extensive back matter provides further context; a note explains that five of the children in the illustrations represent specific individuals among "Winton's children," and a quote from the mother of one of them, Vera Gissing, inspired the titular star motif. Pair with Sis's Nicky & Vera: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued (rev. 5/21).


Stiefel, Chana  The Tower of Life: How Yaffa Eliach Rebuilt Her Town in Stories and Photographs
40 pp.    Scholastic    2022
Trade ISBN 9781338225891

Illustrated by Susan Gal. This picture-book biography of Holocaust historian Yaffa Eliach (1935–2016) begins with her happy childhood in the shtetl of Eishyshok in what is now Lithuania, emphasizing the village’s deep connection to its nine-hundred-year history and its enthusiasm for preserving memories through photographs. When the Nazis invade, Yaffa and her family escape, and the approachable text continues to center the importance of memories, including the photos Yaffa saves in her shoes. Years later, when the adult Eliach is a renowned history professor in the U.S., President Jimmy Carter asks her to build a memorial in the new United States Holocaust Museum, and she seeks out photos saved by other survivors to “rebuild Eishyshok, not brick by brick, but photograph by photograph, story by story.” The result is the Tower of Faces, which Eliach calls the Tower of Life. Gal’s illustrations, created with ink, watercolor, and digital collage (including two actual photos), begin with cheerful blues and yellows on plentiful white space, then turn to angry, arresting reds and blacks when the Nazis appear. Photos and other ephemera in varied grayscale and sepia tones are creatively incorporated into broader scenes of memories as those scenes are reconstructed. An affirming tribute to a Jewish past that was lost in the Holocaust as well as to one survivor’s work. Back matter includes a timeline, a bibliography, further reading, and an author’s note.


Strauss, Gwen  The Hiding Game
40 pp.     Pelican     2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-4556-2265-8
Ebook ISBN

Illustrated by Herb Leonhard. Danny Bénédite and the Rescue Committee hide young Aube Breton and her artist parents — along with other famous artists and writers — in a villa in Nazi-occupied France. The heroic true story is told simply and honestly, with an emphasis on the importance of justice and creativity. Crosshatched art depicts the group's joyful camaraderie despite perilous circumstances. Historical afterword with photos included. Reading list, websites.


Yolen, 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.


Atkins, Jeannine  Hidden Powers: Lise Meitner's Call to Science
288 pp.    Atheneum    2022
Trade ISBN 978-1-6659-0250-2
Ebook ISBN 978-1-6659-0252-6

Another real-life, courageous, boundary-pushing woman gets some well-deserved attention in Atkins's (Grasping M­ysteries, rev. 11/20; Finding Wonders, rev. 7/16) novel in verse. Readers first meet Jewish physicist Lise Meitner (1878–1968) as she "aches to taste hope," clutching fake papers aboard a train at the German border in 1938. Atkins then leaves her audience in suspense and backtracks to Meitner's childhood in Austria, as she chafes against restrictions preventing girls from formal schooling after age thirteen. When the University of Vienna finally opens its doors to women, Meitner is the only female physics student. After earning a PhD and publishing her work on radiation, she moves to Berlin and begins ­conducting unpaid research in a makeshift basement laboratory. Vivid and ­poignant, Atkins's poems chronicle Meitner's hesitation to abandon her experiments and flee Germany after Hitler's rise to power; her horror at realizing her role in the creation of the atomic bomb; and her disappointment that her longtime male collaborator received the Nobel Prize for their shared discovery of nuclear fission, while she was snubbed. Atkins meshes "facts with empathy" in this stirring portrait of--as Meitner's epitaph reads--"A Physicist Who Never Lost Her Humanity." An author's note, a timeline, an annotated list of Meitner's colleagues, and a selected bibliography are appended.


Catherine’s War
by Julia Billet; illus. by Claire Fauvel; trans. from French by Ivanka Hahnenberger
168 pp.    HarperAlley/HarperCollins    2020
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-291560-3
Paper ISBN 978-0-06-291559-7
Ebook ISBN 978-0-06-291561-0

This graphic novel (adapted from a novel by Billet and inspired by her mother’s life) follows teenage Rachel Cohen from one place to another in WWII France. By changing her name to Catherine Colin and hiding her Jewish identity, she is able to live at schools and an orphanage as well as with families throughout the ­occupied and free zones, moving whenever Nazi suspicion encroaches — and always documenting her experiences with her Rolleiflex camera. Though the story covers Rachel/Catherine’s adolescence, the smoothly translated text is clear enough, and gentle enough in its explanations of the Holocaust, to be comprehensible to readers younger than the character. Themes of self-expression — Catherine’s photography is a rare constant in a life overwhelmed by change — will likely resonate with a wide variety of readers. The back matter is pitched to explain this story’s context to young people with little or no background knowledge about WWII or the Holocaust, though readers familiar with the basics may learn something new about this specific setting. Fauvel’s borderless, color-saturated panels shift in palette by location, with red-and-black darkroom scenes standing out, particularly against the black-and-white photos produced in them.


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.


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.


Gratz, Alan  Refugee
343 pp.    Scholastic    2017
Trade ISBN 978-0-545-88083-1
Ebook ISBN 978-0-545-88087-9

Gratz's stirring novel humanizes the plight of refugees worldwide. Alternating chapters follow fictional child refugees from three different eras and nations — Josef in 1939 Germany, Isabel in 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud in 2015 Syria — whose stories ultimately, and surprisingly, converge. The narrative keeps readers on edge throughout these perilous, wrenching journeys but allows for poetic turns during quieter moments of reflection.


Hendrix, John  The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler
176 pp.    Abrams/Amulet    2018
Trade ISBN 978-1-4197-2838-9
Paper ISBN 978-1-4197-3265-2

Readers meet the German theologian and pastor who was executed for participating in a failed assassination attempt on Hitler. Hendrix deftly contrasts Bonhoeffer's and Hitler's biographical details against the larger World War II backdrop. The book effectively employs hand-lettered typeface, comic-panel layouts, spot art, vivid two-color illustrations, occasional maps, and striking political-cartoon-style editorial illustrations. The result is that this heavily textual book is also a highly visual one. Bib., ind.


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.


Hopkinson, Deborah  We Must Not Forget: Holocaust Stories of Survival and Resistance 
384 pp.    Focus/Scholastic    2021
Trade ISBN 978-1-338-25577-5
Ebook ISBN 978-1-338-25578-2

Hopkinson (Courage & Defiance, rev. 11/15; Dive!, rev. 9/16; and others) continues to build an impressive body of work about World War II with these accounts of children and their families caught up in the Holocaust in Germany, the Netherlands, France, and Poland. “To Give the Dead a Voice” is her theme, as she weaves a rich third-person narrative with numerous first-person accounts. There’s Eva Lauffer and Martin Deutschkron hiding in Berlin “under the noses of the Nazis,” Max Liebmann escaping over the mountains to Switzerland aided by a young French boy, and Paula Burger and her brother Isaac hiding in rain barrels and escaping the Novogrudek ghetto with the help of a Polish farmer and the Bielski Partisans. Hopkinson has created a rich resource for teachers, librarians, and students—an effective melding of narratives; well-selected black-and-white photographs with informative captions; maps; and especially useful “Look, Listen, Remember” sidebars that provide links to interviews with many of the survivors. Extensive back matter includes a glossary, a timeline, and “Museum Websites and Online Resources.” The source notes demonstrate the thorough research underlying the volume. 


Levi, Lia  Just a Girl: A True Story of World War II
144 pp.    HarperCollins/Harper    2022
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-306508-6
Ebook ISBN 978-0-06-306510-9

Translated by Sylvia Notini. Illustrated by Jess Mason. In a direct, first-person account (adapted from her adult book Una bambina e basta), Levi relates what happened to her and her family under the rule of Mussolini and during World War II. Brief chapters, short sentences, and a simple vocabulary give this the air of a child's voice, but the quick, deft storytelling is that of a gifted, experienced narrator. The story starts in Turin, but when restrictions are imposed on Jewish Italians, Lia's family moves first to Milan and then to Rome, where Papa finds work. When the Germans occupy Rome, Lia and her sisters are hidden at a Catholic boarding school, and Papa and Mama go into hiding. Lia's impressions of her different schools, new friendships, and the conditions war brings about ("One egg for three people: that's just one of the little tricks that war can play on you") speak to children's interests, and the author's conversational style has just the right tone to make readers feel the narrator is addressing them personally. The main narrative is occasionally interrupted by "dear reader" notes--explanations and reassurances to soften the suspense of a terrifying time. Mason's soft black-and-white illustrations make these switches clear and meaningful, as she moves from images of the youthful Lia to Lia as a grandmother, a testament of survival and Jewish cultural continuity.


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.


Moskowitz-Sweet, Gloria & Smith, Hope Anita  It Rained Warm Bread: Moishe Moskowitz's Story of Hope
148 pp.     Holt/Ottaviano     2019
Trade ISBN 978-1-250-16572-5

Illustrated by Lea Lyon. Says young Moishe Moskowitz: "The wolves are coming" to Poland, "a country that has no use for us. / A country that bullies its citizens / beats up on us because we are different." The Nazi wolves soon reveal their plans: the ghetto, concentration camps, death marches. Smith's spare, eloquent verse is complemented by occasional watercolor sketches. An author's note from Moskowitz-Sweet offers more about her late father on whose memories this historical-fiction verse novel is based.


Ross, Susan L.  Searching for Lottie
170 pp.     Holiday     2019
Trade ISBN 978-0-8234-4166-2
Ebook ISBN 978-0-8234-4219-5

A middle-school project prompts violin prodigy Charlotte (known as Charlie) to research the great-aunt for whom she was named and who disappeared during the Holocaust; her persistent detective work leads to unexpected discoveries about her family. Sweet twelve-year-old Charlie's story provides an accessible entry point into the Holocaust and its connections to people living today, with a dash of hopefulness amid the difficult history.


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.


Shulevitz, Uri  Chance: Escape from the Holocaust
336 pp.    Farrar    2020
Trade ISBN 978-0-374-31371-5
Ebook ISBN 978-0-374-31370-8

Shulevitz was just four when the Nazis invaded Poland in September of 1939, forcing his family members to flee their homeland. Thus began nearly a decade of displacement, discrimination, and hunger, as the Jewish refugee family endured the horrors of war and a tenuous peace, moving to northern Russia, Turkestan, back to Poland, and then to Germany, before settling in Paris in 1947. Despite their often-illegal status, the boy’s parents tried to scrape together a living, working any jobs they could find. Throughout the moves and various illnesses associated with subsistence living, young Uri was sustained by his mother’s stories and his greatest pleasure and solace — his near-obsessive love of drawing. This memoir, Shulevitz’s (Caldecott Medalist for The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship and three-time Honoree) first foray beyond the picture-book format, is heavily illustrated with the artist’s lively and expressive grayscale renderings (and occasional black-and-white photographs), punctuating and illuminating some of the most poignant and emotional moments in the narrative. In a number of sections, he enhances the storytelling via a series of dramatic graphic panels. Though touching on many dark and serious topics, this story is totally focused on the fears, triumphs, and sensibilities of a child. It is truly a portrait of an artist as a young man thrust into a maelstrom of a world gone mad and relying on chance to decide his fate. This thoroughly engrossing memoir will sit comfortably on a shelf with Peter Sís’s The Wall (rev. 9/07) and Allen Say’s Drawing from Memory (rev. 9/11).


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.


Watts, Irene N. Seeking Refuge: A Graphic Novel
136 pp.    Tradewind    2017
Paper ISBN 978-1-926890-02-9

Illustrated by Kathryn E. Shoemaker. Marianne is evacuated in World War II's Kindertransport in this graphic novel based on the author's novel Remember Me. Limited-palette, charcoal-hued illustrations capture the melancholy nature of the story and Marianne's isolation from home and family; this tone is further underscored by the tight layout of the panels and the angle of the proverbial camera lens.


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.


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.


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.


Bornstein, Michael and Holinstat, Debbie Bornstein Survivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz
348 pp.    Farrar    2017
Trade ISBN 978-0-374-30571-0

The book's cover is a photo of death-camp survivor children — including four-year-old Michael Bornstein — just after the Russians liberated Auschwitz. The story of Bornstein's remarkable survival is told in this engrossing volume with the help of his journalist daughter, Holinstat. Research leading to documents, diaries, and other survivors' essays supplements Bornstein's memory.


cohen-scali_maxCohen-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.


DeWoskin, Rachel  Someday We Will Fly
360 pp.    Viking    2019
Trade ISBN 978-0-670-01496-5
Ebook ISBN 978-1-101-61788-5

Lillia's Jewish family plans to escape the Nazi threat in Warsaw for Shanghai, but when their circus is raided they're separated from Lillia's mother. Lillia starts out naive at fifteen, and DeWoskin sensitively shows her maturing and accepting the role of sole breadwinner, taking a job dancing at a club. Rich prose details 1940s Japanese-occupied Shanghai through the eyes of a first-person narrator making sense of an unfamiliar setting. Bib.


Engle, Margarita  Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba
199 pp.    Holt    2009
Trade ISBN 978-0-8050-8936-3

Escaping Nazi Germany, thirteen-year-old Daniel arrives in Cuba after his ship is turned away from New York. He befriends David, an older Jewish man, and a local girl named Paloma. He also begins to acclimate to his new home despite the increasing presence of Nazi propaganda. In this lyrical story in verse, each of Engle's well-rounded characters has a distinctive voice.


Hesse, Monica They Went Left
365 pp.   Little   2020
ISBN 978-0-316-49057-3
Ebook ISBN 978-0-316-49058-0

Hesse (Girl in the Blue CoatThe War Outside) explores the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust for one Polish Jewish eighteen-year-old. Zofia, like so many, was wrenched from her family in the concentration camps. Now liberated from Gross-Rosen, she is desperate for news of her younger brother, Abek. After months of recovery in the hospital, she goes back "home," where she is received with hostility by neighbors. Restless and unsettled, she makes her way to a displaced persons' camp in Germany, where she spends time with others who have also suffered terrible loss--and celebrates small happinesses with them. She develops feelings for a young man named Josef, whose past remains a mystery; and finally receives word of Abek, whose story is slowly revealed. Hesse's characters are believable and sympathetic. "My mind is a sieve," says Zofia, and occasional interspersed chapters, in ­italics, reveal details about her past--and about memories she may or may not have lost and/or recovered. Difficult questions about her present ("'What if my brother is dead?' Josef stares at me...'What if he is, Zofia? Do you think you could find a way to live the rest of your life?'") and future (should she join a group immigrating to Eretz Israel?) underscore the challenges of those who survived unimaginable horrors and must manage to keep living. An appended "Note on History and Research" tells more about the author's motivation and methodology.


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
Trade 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.


Iturbe, Antonio  The Librarian of Auschwitz
424 pp.    Holt/Godwin   2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-62779-618-7

Translated by Lilit Žekulin Thwaites. The children in 1944 Auschwitz-Birkenau's "family camp" are kept busy so their parents can work more efficiently — or so the Nazis think; in fact, the prisoners are running a school. Even more extraordinary, the school has a librarian: fourteen-year-old Edita Adlerova (based on a real person), in charge of eight precious, forbidden books. Iturbe's remarkable account uses an immediate present tense to immerse readers in Dita's story. Bib.


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


Marrin, Albert  A Light in the Darkness: Janusz Korczak, His Orphans, and the Holocaust
388 pp.     Knopf     2019
Trade ISBN 978-1-5247-0120-8
Library ISBN 978-1-5247-0121-5
Ebook ISBN 978-1-5247-0122-2

Janusz Korczak was the pen name of Henryk Goldszmit (1878–1942), a Jewish doctor, author, and orphanage director who famously championed children's rights and who perished at the Treblinka extermination camp. Marrin explores the man's life, with various digressions into such topics as Polish history and politics, WWII, and the Jewish diaspora. Marrin both illuminates history and provides occasional respite from the unrelenting (and often vividly described) cruelty of the Holocaust. Bib., ind.


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.


Moss, Marissa  The Woman Who Split the Atom: The Life of Lise Meitner
264 pp.    Abrams    2022
Trade ISBN 978-1-4197-5853-9
Ebook ISBN 978-1-6833-5827-5

This absorbing and well-paced biography of Austrian-born trailblazing physicist Lise Meitner begins by exploring ­Meitner's path from college student to struggling laboratory scientist (prevented, as a woman, from gaining employment as a university professor in Berlin). With the coming of WWII, the narrative kicks into high gear as Moss depicts the Jewish Meitner's delayed ­decision to finally flee Germany and the dramatic escape that follows. It is in the ­relative safety of neighboring Sweden that Meitner makes her most significant ­discovery, ­concluding that atoms can be split and that the resulting "fission" releases massive amounts of energy. The implications of this discovery would emerge shortly thereafter with the Manhattan Project. Moss provides readers with comprehensible descriptions of her subject's scientific work; equally important to ­Meitner's story is the depiction of the conditions under which she finds herself working during Hitler's rise to power. Chapters are preceded by single-page ­comics showing significant moments in the unfolding narrative. These welcome breaks serve many functions, including moving Meitner's story along, depicting ­scientists at work in their labs, and helping readers ­better understand the many ­pressures Meitner was under. Extensive back matter includes a timeline, profiles of the various scientists mentioned in the ­narrative, a glossary, an index, and chapter-by-chapter source notes. A perfect accompaniment to Sheinkin's Bomb (rev. 3/17); see also Atkins's Hidden Powers: Lise Meitner's Call to Science (rev. 5/22).


Nielsen, Jennifer A.  Resistance
389 pp.     Scholastic     2018
Trade ISBN 978-1-338-14847-3
Ebook ISBN 978-1-338-14849-7

Chaya is a Jewish teenage "courier" for the Akiva resistance group, sneaking in and out of Polish ghettos and delivering aid to inhabitants. After many Akiva members are killed, Chaya participates in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Though it acknowledges the horrors of the Holocaust, this book focuses more on action and adventure than most Holocaust novels. An afterword delineates real-life people and events.


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 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.


Stamper, Vesper  What the Night Sings: A Novel
266 pp.     Knopf     2018
Trade ISBN 978-1-5247-0038-6
Library ISBN 978-1-5247-0039-3
Ebook ISBN 978-1-5247-0040-9

This moving, beautifully illustrated novel spends time on adolescent Holocaust survivor Gerta's postwar story, thoughtfully exploring the challenges of rebuilding a life; a long flashback gives context for the memories influencing her. Dreamlike prose and digitally toned black-and-white illustrations in ink wash, white gouache, and graphite combine with thick, creamy paper to create a volume with the feel of an art object. Reading list, websites. Glos.


thor_Deep seaThor, Annika  Deep Sea
231 pp.     Delacorte     2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-385-74385-3
Library 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.


Verstegen, Jeska  I'll Keep You Close
176 pp.    Levine Querido/Em Querido    2021
Trade ISBN 978-1-64614-111-1

Translated by Bill Nagelkerke. Jeska lives in the Netherlands in the 1980s. Her parents are secretive about the family's past and the reason for her mother's periods of self-isolation. When her grandmother becomes ill and confused, her mentions of an unfamiliar relative and then of Westerbork lead Jeska to make connections with what she's learned in school about World War II. She comes to realize that her family is Jewish and that her mother and grandmother are Holocaust survivors. The smoothly translated first-person prose has a hushed feel to it, with the details in Jeska's observations lending immediacy ("Classical music and warm air compete for space; this car is far too small for piano music, the stifling heat, Mama, and me"). The close adherence to the point of view of an eleven-year-old who's been kept in the dark makes watching her work things out for herself all the more poignant: "Is it a Jewish face that looks back at me? It doesn't feel Jewish. But how does that actually feel? I have no idea." Ultimately, she concludes that what her mother has hidden is worth remembering. An afterword explains that Verstegen "adapted the facts" of true events from her childhood "to be able to tell a well-rounded story." An emotional glimpse into the effects of the Holocaust, long after its end.


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.


Wider, Susan  It's My Whole Life: Charlotte Salomon: An Artist in Hiding During World War II
160 pp.    Norton    2022
Trade ISBN 978-1-324-01545-1

This well-researched biography of German Jewish artist Charlotte Salomon (1917–1943) constructs many of its episodes around her autobiographical paintings, allowing not only for analysis of her art but also for an intimate focus on particular moments in her life. That life was a difficult and complicated one, and Wider is frank about Salomon's intense relationships and obsession with her family's history of suicide, as well as her alleged poisoning of her grandfather (the book is inconclusive as to her motivations: assisted suicide, or escape from his abuse?). The specter of the Holocaust looms large over Salomon's story: she created her Life? or Theater? series of paintings while in hiding, and was eventually captured and killed in the gas chamber. Two closing chapters focus on her legacy. Black-and-white photos are interspersed throughout the narrative, as are reproductions of Salomon's colorful and often melancholic paintings. Back matter includes a family tree, a map, a timeline, source notes, a bibliography, and an index (unseen).


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.


Yolen, Jane  Mapping the Bones
417 pp.     Philomel     2018
Trade ISBN 978-0-399-25778-0

In this "Hansel and Gretel"–inspired story, two families plan an escape from the Łodz ghetto. The children become separated from their parents, finding themselves first with a band of Partisans in the Łagiewniki Forest and then in the (fictional) Sobanek forced labor camp. Yolen's prose is stark and accessible, with interspersed, lyrical poetry as a reminder that art can be a means of resistance and survival.

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Adonis Villanueva

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

Posted : Mar 24, 2017 03:57



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