Children's Books and Picture Books--Krinitz to Polacco

Krinitz, Esther Nisenthal and Bernice Steinhardt.  Memories of Survival (Hyperion, 2005).

In this stunning collection of embroidered panels lies Esther Krinitz's remarkable journey of living through the Holocaust in Poland. At the age of 15, she and her 13-year-old sister separated from their family and went into hiding. Forced from the homes of their friends and neighbors, they sought refuge in the depths of the forest. With no place left to turn, they disguised themselves as Catholic farmhands and lived for years in fear as the war raged on. The eventual end of the war brought with it a heartbreaking discovery: while Esther and her sister survived, their parents and siblings, and millions of other Jews, did not.Though never trained as an artist, at the age of 50, Esther decided to retell her memories through this series of hand-stitched panels. At once naive and infinitely complex, these images reveal both the extreme horrors of war and the cherished family memories shared before the war began. Told in Esther's own words! , with commentary written by her daughter, Bernice Steinhardt, this is an unforgettable look back to a time and events that must never be forgotten.


Littlesugar, Amy and William Low (Illustrator).  Willy and Max: A Holocaust Story (Philomel, 2006).

When Max’s dad buys a painting from the window of Willy’s dad’s antique shop, Willy and Max become instant friends.They are just alike, down to their same missing tooth! Even though Max lives in the Jewish quarter, the boys are inseparable—until the Nazis come. They take everything from Max’s family, including the precious painting that began the boys’ friendship.And though they promise to be friends forever, Willy and Max know that something unspeakable is coming between them, and they may never see each other again.  Beautiful and heartbreaking, Willy & Max is the powerful story of two boys separated by circumstance, but held together through generations by a simple painting—and the unbreakable spirit of their friendship. 


Marshall, Ann, Luba Tryszynska-Frederick (Translator) and Michelle Roehm McCann (Illustrator).  Luba: The Angel of Bergen-Belsen (Tricycle Press, 2003).

Just when it seems a non-fiction Holocaust book can't tell us anything new, along comes a story like this one, an inspiring, upbeat, true rescue account that is essential to the history. In the last few months of the war, Luba Trysznka, a young Polish Jewish woman, saved more than 50 Dutch Jewish children who had been abandoned in a snowy field behind her barracks in Bergen-Belsen. She sheltered the children, scavenged and stole for them, and cajoled food scraps, medicine, and wood to keep the children alive. McCann's third-person account is based on interviews with Luba, who now lives in the U.S., and Marshall's handsome accompanying art, in oil paint and collage, is radiant. There are also occasional photos, including one of the survivors 50 years later when their brave rescuer was honored. There are no guards or emaciated corpses here, and children will need the useful introduction and afterword to fill in the facts about the millions who did not survive—among them, Dutch teen Anne Frank, who died of typhus right at Bergen-Belsen.  (Hazel Rochman for Booklist)


Maruki, Toshi.  Hiroshima No Pika (HarperCollins, 1982).

Hiroshima No Pika (Hiroshima No More) is a retelling of a mother's account of what happened to her family during the Flash that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945. Toshi Maruki is highly regarded as an artist in her native Japan. Since the end of Worl War II, she and her husband Iri Maruki have been actively engaged in campaigning for nuclear disarmament and world peace. In addition to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the subjects of her paintings have included the Minamata tragedy and genocide during the Japanese occupation of Nanking. Hiroshima No Pika was awarded the Ehon Nippon Prize (for the most excellent picture book of Japan), an annual award given by the Yomiuri Shimbun Press.


Mochizuki, Ken and Dom Lee (Illustrator).  Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story (Lee & Low Books, 2003).

Add this to the stories of the Righteous Gentiles. In 1940, Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese consul in Lithuania, saved the lives of hundreds of Polish Jewish refugees. He personally wrote out visas that enabled the Jews to escape the Nazis. To do that, he risked the lives of his own family and disobeyed the instructions of the Japanese government. The story is told in the first person by the consul's son, Hiroki, who remembers himself at the age of five when desperate refugees were crowding at his father's door. He remembers how his father consulted his family and how they all discussed their choice: if they helped those people, the family could be in danger; if they did nothing, all the refugees could die. Lee's stirring mixed-media illustrations in sepia shades are humane and beautiful; they capture the intensity of those days--when the crowds were at the gate and one man wrote and wrote the visas by hand--from the child's viewpoint. The immediacy of the narrative will grab kids' interest and make them think. And yet, this story cries out for fuller historical treatment than a picture book can give it. So many questions are left unanswered: What happened to the refugees? What happened to the consul's family? A brief afterword just hints at the astonishing drama. (Hazel Rochman for Booklist)


Mochizuki, Ken and Dom Lee (Illustrator).  Baseball Saved Us (Lee & Low Books, 1995).

A Japanese American boy learns to play baseball when he and his family are forced to live in an internment camp during World War II, and his ability to play helps him after the war is over.


Nelson, S.D.  Quiet Hero: The Ira Hayes Story (Lee & Low Books, 2006).

The short life of Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian and one of the marines who raised the flag at Iwo Jima, is chronicled in a picture book for middle-graders. Shy and silent, Hayes found comfort first in the regimen of a government-run boarding school and then in the armed services during World War II. He and five other Marines were immortalized in that iconic image of raising the Stars and Stripes on a pole, which was later made into a bronze statue. Hailed as a hero upon his return, Hayes found it difficult to adjust to civilian life, sinking into despair and alcoholism, a disease that killed him 10 years later. Some of Nelson's acrylic images, like his language, are a bit stiff and stilted, but several spreads dynamically capture the fury of war, and the text is readable and informative. The author's note provides a bit more information about this well-known military moment. (GraceAnne DeCandido for Booklist)


Nerlove, Miriam.  Flowers On The Wall (Margaret K. McElderry, 1996).

Stories about the Holocaust for young children always raise problems: either they tell the terrifying truth and that can overwhelm this audience, or they distort the truth and make things sweet and hopeful. This quiet picture book is neither sensational nor comforting. Inspired by a pre-Holocaust photograph by Roman Vishniac, Nerlove imagines the life of a Jewish child in Warsaw who stayed in bed all winter because of the cold and painted flowers on the wall behind her bed. Most of the story takes place before the Nazi invasion, when the Jews suffered under Polish oppression. For a brief period, Rachel gets some shoes and even manages to go to school; then the Germans come, and the final double-page spread shows the Jews being taken to Treblinka concentration camp, Rachel's dreams "gone forever." The words and watercolor pictures are understated, avoiding close-up scenes of brutality, starvation, and breakdown. The focus is on the rooms of home and school and the brightly colored flowers that cover the cracked gray walls.  (Hazel Rochman for


Oppenheim, Joanne.  Dear Miss Breed (Scholastic Nonfiction, 2006).

In the early 1940's, Clara Breed was the children's librarian at the San Diego Public Library. But she was also friend to dozens of Japanese American children and teens when war broke out in December of 1941. The story of what happened to these American citizens is movingly told through letters that her young friends wrote to Miss Breed during their internment. This remarkable librarian and humanitarian served as a lifeline to these imprisoned young people, and was brave enough to speak out against a shameful chapter in American history.


Oppenheim, Shulamith Levey and Ronald Himler (Illustrator). The Lily Cupboard (HarperTrophy, 1995).

Although this depiction of a young Jewish girl's experience in Nazi-occupied Holland "ultimately does not ring true," said PW, it is "sure to provoke further discussion and may serve to introduce the themes of war and racism." (Publisher’s Weekly)


Platt, Richard.  D-Day Landings: The Story of the Allied Invasion (DK Children, 2004).

How did the Allies plan and execute the most massive and daring invasion in military history? Read all about it in the DK Reader that explains in thrilling detail how the Nazis were defeated on the beaches of France. DK Readers is a multi-level learning-to-read program combining DK's highly visual style with appealing stories at five graduated levels. Stunning photographs and engaging, age-appropriate stories are guaranteed to capture a child's interest while developing reading skills and general knowledge. DK Readers allow progression of stories for beginning readers with simple sentences and word repetition through to stories with rich vocabulary and more challenging sentence structure for proficient readers.


Polacco, Patricia.  The Butterfly (Philomel, 2004).

Since the Tall Boots—the Nazis—have marched into Monique's small French village, terrorizing it, nothing surprises her. Until the night Monique encounters "the little ghost" sitting at the end of her bed. When she turns out to be--not a ghost at all--but a young girl named Sevrine, who has been hiding from the Nazis in Monique's own basement, how could Monique not be surprised! Playing upstairs after dark, the two become friends until, in a terrifying moment, they are discovered, sending both of their families into a nighttime flight. In the tradition of Pink and Say, Patricia Polacco once again dips into her own family's history to reveal her Aunt Monique's true story of friendship from the French Resistance.