Holocaust Education Week 2019

This year, Holocaust Education Week is being observed in Toronto from November 3-10, 2019. Their programs and workshops ensure that the next generation meaningfully learns about the Holocaust through best practices, resources, and engagement with survivor testimony. We’ve put together a list of books that may help bridge the gap for young readers.

PICTURE BOOKS

The Cat Who Lived With Anne Frank
By David Lee Miller and Steven Jay Rubin
Illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley
ISBN 9781524741501 | Hardcover
Ages 4-8 | Philomel Books
Told from the perspective of the cat who actually lived with Anne Frank in the famous Amsterdam annex, this poignant book paints a picture of a young girl who wistfully dreams of a better life for herself and her friends, tentatively wonders what mark she might leave on the world, and, above all, adamantly believes in the goodness of people.

MIDDLE GRADE

Broken Strings
By Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer
ISBN 9780735266247 | Hardcover
Ages 10-14 | Puffin Canada
It’s 2002. In the aftermath of the twin towers — and the death of her beloved grandmother — Shirli Berman is intent on moving forward. The best singer in her junior high, she auditions for the lead role in Fiddler on the Roof, but is crushed to learn that she’s been given the part of the old Jewish mother in the musical rather than the coveted part of the sister. But there is an upside: her “husband” is none other than Ben Morgan, the cutest and most popular boy in the school. Deciding to throw herself into the role, she rummages in her grandfather’s attic for some props. There, she discovers an old violin in the corner — strange, since her Zayde has never seemed to like music, never even going to any of her recitals. Showing it to her grandfather unleashes an anger in him she has never seen before, and while she is frightened of what it might mean, Shirli keeps trying to connect with her Zayde and discover the awful reason behind his anger. A long-kept family secret spills out, and Shirli learns the true power of music, both terrible and wonderful.

How I Became a Spy: A Mystery of WWII London
By Deborah Hopkinson
ISBN 9780399557064 | Hardcover
Ages 8-12 | Knopf Books For Young Readers
Bertie Bradshaw never set out to become a spy. He never imagined traipsing around war-torn London, solving ciphers, practicing surveillance, and searching for a traitor to the Allied forces. He certainly never expected that a strong-willed American girl named Eleanor would play Watson to his Holmes (or Holmes to his Watson, depending on who you ask). But when a young woman goes missing, leaving behind a coded notebook, Bertie is determined to solve the mystery. With the help of Eleanor and his friend David, a Jewish refugee–and, of course, his trusty pup, Little Roo–Bertie must decipher the notebook in time to stop a double agent from spilling the biggest secret of all to the Nazis.

White Bird: A Wonder Story
By R.J. Palacio
ISBN 9780525645535 | Hardcover
Ages 8-12 | Knopf Books For Young Readers
In R. J. Palacio’s bestselling collection of stories Auggie & Me, which expands on characters in Wonder, readers were introduced to Julian’s grandmother, Grandmère. Here, Palacio makes her graphic novel debut with Grandmère’s heartrending story: how she, a young Jewish girl, was hidden by a family in a Nazi-occupied French village during World War II; how the boy she and her classmates once shunned became her savior and best friend.

YOUNG ADULT

What the Night Sings
By Vesper Stamper
ISBN 9781524700386 | Hardcover
Ages 12+ | Knopf Books For Young Readers
After losing her family and everything she knew in the Nazi concentration camps, Gerta is finally liberated, only to find herself completely alone. Without her papa, her music, or even her true identity, she must move past the task of surviving and on to living her life. In the displaced persons camp where she is staying, Gerta meets Lev, a fellow teen survivor who she just might be falling for, despite her feelings for someone else. With a newfound Jewish identity she never knew she had, and a return to the life of music she thought she lost forever, Gerta must choose how to build a new future.

The Book Thief
By Markus Zusak
ISBN 9781101934180 | Hardcover
Ages 12+ | Knopf Books For Young Readers
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

The Red Ribbon
By Lucy Adlington
ISBN 9780763680176 | Paperback
Ages 12+ | Candlewick Press
Three weeks after being detained on her way home from school, fourteen-year-old Ella finds herself in the Upper Tailoring Studio, a sewing workshop inside a Nazi concentration camp. There, two dozen skeletal women toil over stolen sewing machines. They are the seamstresses of Birchwood, stitching couture dresses for a perilous client list: wives of the camp’s Nazi overseers and the female SS officers who make prisoners’ lives miserable. It is a workshop where stylish designs or careless stitches can mean life or death. And it is where Ella meets Rose. As thoughtful and resilient as the dressmakers themselves, Rose and Ella’s story is one of courage, desperation, and hope — hope as delicate and as strong as silk, as vibrant as a red ribbon in a sea of gray.

The Extra
By Kathryn Lasky
ISBN 9780735266247 | Hardcover
Ages 12+ | Candlewick Press
In this chilling but ultimately uplifting novel, Kathryn Lasky imagines the lives of the Romani—called the “Gypsy Plague” by the Nazis—who worked as extras for Hitler’s real favorite filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl. Fifteen-year-old Lilo and the other extras are barely fed, closely guarded, and kept in a locked barn when not on the movie set. And Riefenstahl is always present, answering the slightest provocation with malice, flaunting the power to assign prisoners to life or death. When faced with a rare opportunity, Lilo takes matters into her own hands, effecting an escape and running for her life, giving readers a story of survival unlike any other.

Playing for the Commandant
By Suzy Zail
ISBN 9780763664039 | Hardcover
Ages 12+ | Candlewick Press
“Look after each other . . . and get home safe. And when you do, tell everyone what you saw and what they did to us.” These are Hanna’s father’s parting words to her and her sister when their family is separated at the gates of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Her father’s words — and a black C-sharp piano key hidden away in the folds of her dress — are all that she has left to remind her of life before. Before, Hanna was going to be a famous concert pianist. She was going to wear her yellow dress to a dance. And she was going to dance with a boy. But then the Nazis came. Now it is up to Hanna to do all she can to keep her mother and sister alive, even if that means playing piano for the commandant and his guests. Staying alive isn’t supposed to include falling in love with the commandant’s son. But Karl Jager is beautiful, and his aloofness belies a secret. And war makes you do dangerous things.

Code Name Verity
By Elizabeth Wein
ISBN 9780385676571 | Paperback
Ages 12+ | Doubleday Canada
Two young women from totally different backgrounds are thrown together during the Second World War. One is a working-class girl from Manchester, the other a Scottish aristocrat; one is a pilot, the other a wireless operator. Yet whenever their paths cross, they complement each other perfectly, and before long they are devoted friends. But then a vital mission goes wrong, and one of the friends has to bail out of a faulty plane over France. She is captured by the Gestapo and becomes a prisoner of war. The story begins in “Verity’s” own words, as she writes her account for her captors.

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