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
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!