Tag Archives: Holocaust

PPBF – Francesco Tirelli’s Ice Cream Shop

I had meant to post this review in December, the month when people of Jewish heritage around the world celebrated Hanukkah in 2020. But somehow, I didn’t manage to post this then. Rather than waiting another year, I thought I’d keep the spirit of the season alive and post it now.

Title: Francesco Tirelli’s Ice Cream Shop

Written By: Tamar Meir

Illustrated By: Yael Albert

Translated By: Noga Appelbaum

Publisher/Date: Kar-Ben Publishing/2019

Suitable for Ages: 6-10

Themes/Topics: Holocaust, Hungary, ice cream, immigrant

Opening:

Francesco Tirelli loved ice cream so much that at least once a day he would find an excuse to pass by Carlo Tirelli’s ice cream cart. Uncle Carlo was very fond of his nephew.

Brief Synopsis: When an ice cream-loving boy grew up, he opened his own ice cream parlor in a new city and country, and he used that shop to hide his Jewish friends and neighbors during a long, dark winter.

Links to Resources:

  • Do you have a favorite ice cream flavor? Draw a picture of an ice cream sundae, being sure to include your favorite flavors;
  • Try making homemade ice cream;
  • Discover Budapest, Hungary, where much of this story takes place;
  • Learn about the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.

Why I Like this Book:

Translated from Hebrew, Francesco Tirelli’s Ice Cream Shop is based on a true story told by the author’s father-in-law, a boy, Peter, whose life was saved by Francesco’s kindness.  I think kids and their adults will appreciate learning how one ice cream-loving Italian boy grew up to become an ice-cream vendor far from his native land and how he helped his Jewish friends and neighbors hide from the Nazis in World War II Budapest. One person can truly make a difference, readers learn.

And not only does Francesco, an immigrant in Hungary, save several Jewish friends and neighbors, but young Peter finds a way to celebrate Hanukkah even as the group hides in the darkness of the closed ice cream shop.

Although the Holocaust plays a central role in the story, Meir’s focus on ice cream helps temper this difficult subject.

Albert’s softly expressive illustrations helped transport me back to this historical time period.

A Note about Craft:

Meir pens a story that spans several generations, something not generally done in picture books, and that handles a very difficult subject, the Holocaust. So how does she pull it off? Meir begins this hope-filled story with scenes from Francesco’s Italian childhood, and she doesn’t end it until young Peter is an older man with grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. A love of ice cream threads through this long time span, tying together Francesco’s Italian childhood in the early 20th century, through the main action of the story, during World War II, and through to the late 20th century. By focusing on a kid-friendly element, ice cream, and most particularly by repeating beloved flavors (“Hazelnut or berry?/ Cinnamon or cherry?/ Coffee or toffee?”) at three key points, I think Meir relieves the tension of the tough subject matter, ties the generations together, and leaves the reader believing that one person’s actions can make a difference.

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!

PPBF – Hand in Hand

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

Opening:

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!

 

PPBF – The Tree in the Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank’s Window

September is a month of beginnings, school and fall come to mind; endings, summer with its carefree, shoe-free, sunshiny days; and remembering, those who labor and those we’ve lost, either personally or in the unfathomable horror that is seared into our hearts and divides time into pre-9/11, post-9/11 worlds.  For today’s Perfect Picture Book, I’ve chosen a book that helps us remember another unfathomable horror and reminds us of the hope that can endure tragedy.

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Title: The Tree in the Window: Looking through Anne Frank’s Window

Written By: Jeff Gottesfeld

Illustrated By: Peter McCarty

Publisher/date: Alfred A. Knopf (Random House)/2016

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes/Topics: History, World War II, Anne Frank, Holocaust, chestnut tree, bearing witness

Opening: “The tree in the courtyard lived for 172 years. She was a horse chestnut. Her leaves were green stars; her flowers foaming cones of white and pink.”

Brief Synopsis: The Tree in the Window is the biography of a tree that grew in the courtyard outside the attic where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis.

Links to Resources:

Why I Like this Book:

As Anne Frank is the “Every Child” serving as a face and bringing a narrative to the horror of the Holocaust, the tree that endured outside her window serves as the “fly on the wall,” bearing witness to Anne’s life and ultimate demise. While Anne and her family were hiding in the attic, the tree also was a source of nature, beauty and comfort for Anne. Which raises an important question to discuss with young listeners: how can we both witness suffering and bring comfort to those who suffer?

This is a gentle introduction to the Holocaust, as gentle as anything can be, that ends with a note of hope: despite her death in 2010 at age 172, saplings from the tree live on around the world, notably at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, in New York City.

A Note about Craft:

On his website, Jeff Gottesfeld writes that he first learned about the tree in a New York Times article and was drawn to its “life-affirming story.” He admits, though, that he “wasn’t sure how to tell” that story. He started a few times, struggled for a few weeks, then set it aside for two years. He returned to the story in August 2012, submitted the manuscript to his agent in November 2012, and Knopf/Random House acquired it a few weeks after that. As he shows, sometimes story ideas need to sit, to jell, before we as writers are able to write them.

Both the text and Peter McCarty’s sepia-toned illustrations imbue the story with the gravitas it deserves. Interestingly, while Anne’s story is told in its entirety, neither the author nor illustrator name the place or time period, nor do they identify the country of origin of the soldiers.

Finally, as a writer who often tackles so-called “difficult subjects,” I think The Tree in the Courtyard serves as a valuable mentor text on point-of-view. By drawing the reader and listeners outside the attic, I believe it affords some distance from a horror that is incomprehensible. As we mark the 15th anniversary of 9/11, and as books about it for even young children are being written, I can’t help wondering what point-of-view will help tell that story while providing hope in the face of overwhelming tragedy.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!