When I first saw mention to today’s Perfect Picture Book and read a review at Picture Books Help Kids Soar, I knew I had to find, read and share it!
Title: Hand in Hand
Written By: Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum
Illustrated By: Maya Shleifer
Publisher/Date: Apples & Honey Press, an imprint of Behrman House/2019
Suitable for Ages: 7+
Themes/Topics: Holocaust; loss; separation; hope
Mama had a smile sweeter than strawberries in summer. So did my little brother, Leib.
Brief Synopsis: When their mother goes missing during wartime, young Ruthi and her brother, Leib, are sent to an orphanage. When Leib is adopted, Ruthi shares a tattered photo and promises to always remember him.
Links to Resources:
- Check out the Teacher’s Guide;
- After the war, Ruthi finds solace by planting in the garden. Grow colorful flowers or favorite vegetables, or gift a plant you pot to a special friend or relative;
- Check out other ideas at Picture Books Help Kids Soar .
Why I Like this Book:
In Hand in Hand, Rosenbaum introduces two very difficult subjects, the Holocaust and loss, in an empathetic way that, I believe, will enable caregivers to discuss these important subjects with young children. Hinting at some of the more difficult aspects of the Holocaust experience, Rosenbaum notes that Mama left and failed to return, but the reader does not learn her fate. Similarly, soldiers appeared and “hovered over our heads, like tidy rows of storm clouds – threatening to burst”, but there is no indication that the soldiers harmed Ruthi or her family. Most evocative of the Holocaust, Ruthi “walked through Nightmares, in a place where numbers replaced names.”
But, as Ruthi notes, “even in that colorless landscape”, there was hope. Other people took care of her until, finally, “one spring morning the black boots vanished.” Alone, Ruthi journeyed to a different land where, through the restorative powers of gardening, she was “brought back to life”.
The story could have ended at this hope-filled point, but it doesn’t. Instead, Rosenbaum follows Ruthi’s life to adulthood and old age when, readers learn, photo galleries of missing children helped reunite siblings, even after so many years. Experiencing these reunifications leaves readers feeling even more hopeful, and caused at least this reviewer to shed a few tears.
Shleifer’s bright, nature-filled illustrations accompanying happy times in Ruthi’s life and the dark, foreboding spreads when she is scared and alone help capture and further the emotions that Rosenbaum’s text evokes. I found the two-page spread of children at an orphanage standing against a light-colored background particularly haunting. Interestingly, too, the children in Hand in Hand are portrayed as animals, which will, I think, help children distance themselves from the more traumatic aspects of the story.
A Note about Craft:
Rosenbaum relates Ruthi’s story using first-person point-of-view. This enables readers to know from the first page that Ruthi will be there through the entire story, despite the perils she faces. From the start, Rosenbaum also focuses on a few kid-relatable features in the story – a photograph of Ruthi and her brother, including his “strawberry smile,” and holding hands. By honing in on these details, I think Rosenbaum makes it easier for children to relate to Ruthi’s experiences and empathize with her.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!