Tag Archives: Holocaust books for children

20 Holocaust Books for Children and Teens

On Monday, I wrote about  Johanna Reiss’s Holocaust memoir The Upstairs Room. As a follow-up I pulled together a list of 20+ Holocaust books for children and teens.

BOOKS ABOUT THE HOLOCAUST FOR CHILDREN AND TEENS–ALL GENRES

  • Adler, David A.  The Picture Book of Anne Frank.
  • Bishop, Claire Huchet.  Twenty and Ten.
  • Bunting, Eve. Terrible Things. This picture book is subtitled “An Allegory of the Holocaust.” Illustrations by Stephen Gammell.
  • Drucker, Malka and Michael Halperin. Jacob’s Rescue, a Holocaust Story.
  • Frank, Anne.  The Diary of a Young Girl. Most important text for adolescents by a girl who dies in the camps after writing the diary; the diary, though, is coming of age and doesn’t continue after they are in hiding and into the camps. Note that the PLAY written about Anne’s story is called Diary of Anne Frank.
  • Greene, Bette.  The Summer of My German Soldier.
  • Hurwitz, Johanna. Anne Frank: Life in Hiding. Anne Frank for younger readers.
  • Goldston, Robert.  Sinister Touches: The Secret War Against Hitler.
  • Heuve, Eric. A Family Secret. A graphic novel, shared by blogger Ian in a comment on my last post.
  • I Never Saw Another Butterfly.  Poetry and art from actual concentration camp children.
  • Ippisch, Hanneke.  Sky
  • Isaacman, Clara.  Clara’s Story. (Actual memoir of Jewish Holocaust survivor)

  • Kerr, Judith.  When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. This is a true Holocaust story—but the protagonist barely knows she’s Jewish.
  • Levitin, Sonia.  Journey to America.
  • Lowry, Lois.  Number the Stars. Non Jewish protagonist.
  • Meltzer, Milton.  Rescue: The Story of How Gentiles Saved Jews in the Holocaust.
  • Mochizuki, Ken. Passage to Freedom by Ken Mochizuki. A picture book that describes how a Japanese official helped save Jews during the Holocaust.
  • Orlev, Uri.  The Island on Bird Street. Fictional Holocaust story by actual Holocaust survivor who now lives in Israel.
  • Reiss, Johanna.  The Journey Back.
  • Reiss, Johanna.  The Upstairs Room.
  • Rogasky, Barbara.  Smoke and Ashes: The Story of the Holocaust.
  • Siegal, Aranka. Upon the Head of the Goat:  A Childhood in Hungary 1939-1944. Memoir of actual survivor and description of being carted off to a camp; for adolescents.
  • Tene, Benjamin.  In the Shade of the Chestnut Tree.
  • Yolen, Jane.  The Devil’s Arithmetic. Fiction about an American child who goes back in time to the Holocaust.

I did a little search online, and here is a website that has another list of books–some are the same that I have on my list, and some are different. She shares some good info, too.

And here is another great list of books about the Holocaust for kids!

I Never Saw Another Butterfly

I Never Saw Another Butterfly

After posting on Monday and “chatting” with readers, I started thinking more about the subject.

What is the difference between a book about the Holocaust for children or teens and one for adults? Is it the reading level? Is it the maturity level regarding violence, sex, and even despair?

How can the Holocaust, by its very nature an obscenity and atrocity, be written for kids?

How is this weighty subject handled in these books?

I’ve noticed that stories of the death and concentration camps written for adult readers focus on feelings of intense guilt on the part of the survivors. The mere act of eating means that each bite taken is one bite less for someone else.

In books for children the horrors are less chilling, the guilt tangible, but less complex.  In Clara’s Story, Clara worries, “I felt guilty about the plans our family was making, wishing that, somehow, we could take everyone with us who wanted to come.”

What seems to be most important in Holocaust books written for children is that family members are often kept together. Family life, of some sort, usually continues throughout the course of each story.  For instance, in The Upstairs Room, Annie and Sini stay together and Johann functions as a father figure to the girls.

In Holocaust stories written for adults, the singular aloneness that occurs at the camps is palpable. Family ties equate to responsibility for adults, a very heavy burden in the camps, whereas for children, family ties are a comfort.

Another difference is that adult books often delve into the protagonists’ religion or spirituality, while the children’s memoirs do not.  I suspect that this is because it’s less likely that the books will be read in public schools if they mention much about religion. Maybe writers are self-censoring. Maybe publishers are censoring.

Have you noticed any other differences between a story about the Holocaust for children and one for adults?

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Teaching the Holocaust to Children and Teens

One section of my memoir bookshelf is devoted to books by Holocaust survivors. I read these books years ago, long before I started to think about memoir as a genre.

I’ve read Holocaust memoirs written for children and ones written for adults. Most of these memoir writers survived the war by hiding with non-Jews. My favorite children’s Holocaust memoir is Johanna Reiss’s The Upstairs Room (1972).

I used to teach The Upstairs Room, a 1973 Newbery Honor Book, in some of my children’s literature classes. One of my students was so taken with the history of the story that he constructed a timeline, juxtaposing historical dates with personal events from the story. What he discovered was that the historical dates were depicted accurately by Reiss in all cases except that the first bombing raid by Americans on Germany at Wilhelmshaven occurred on January 27, 1943; Reiss’ book tells of hearing planes flying overhead to bomb Germany for the first time sometime after February 2. The discrepancy is not what is amazing; as the student pointed out in class, that Reiss would remember these dates thirty years later seems impossible. What seems likely is that she took trouble with her research to augment her memory.

This book teaches me that memory is the most important part of history, but that it needs to be supported with historical research to assure accuracy in a memoir–particularly, when a memoir has as much at stake in historical terms as a Holocaust story.

From the first time I read the book (and I’ve read it many times), I bonded closely with Annie, the first person narrator. The story begins in 1938 when the protagonist Annie de Leeuw (Johanna’s name as a child) is six years old and just beginning to hear about the problems that Hitler is bringing to her world.

Four years later, in late summer 1942, Annie and her older sister Sini go into hiding with a non-Jewish Dutch family, the Oostervelds. Annie and Sini are cared for by Dientje, Opoe, and particularly by Johan Oosterveld, who is a loving man of strong character. Their father and oldest sister Rachel hide elsewhere during the war. Their mother died in the hospital of kidney disease just after they went into hiding.

The girls live in an upstairs room (hence, the title), but they have to crawl into the back of a closet when anyone else comes near the house. Imagine what happens when the Nazis decide to make the house their headquarters . . . .

This book is for 5th to 8th graders, but a good reader that is mature could read it when a little younger. And you can’t be too old for this book.

When you read a memoir do you expect that the memories that correspond with historical events have been corroborated by research? Or do you expect a memoir to tell the story only as the writer remembers it?

Here is a belated addition to this post: Ian at the blog ReSearching MySelf is writing a series about this very subject, based on his knowledge and research of his mother’s life in the Netherlands during the war. Find his most recent post here.

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A FEW HOLOCAUST MEMOIRS FOR TEENS

Clara’s War by Clara Kramer

Upon the Head of a Goat by Aranka Siegel

Night by Elie Wiesel

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing