Wednesday, January 05, 2022

WWII from different perspectives

Hartman, Renee and Greene, Joshua M. Signs of Survival: A Memoir of the Holocaust
January 4th 2022 by Scholastic Nonfiction 
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Based on an interview with both Renee Hartman and her sister Herta for the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocause Testimonies at Yale University, this book is a good overview all too common experiences during the Holocaust. The two girls lived in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia. Due to a hereditary condition, Herta and the parents were deaf, and Renee acted as a translator for them. Herta briefly attended a school for deaf students, but when the Nazis took over, Jewish children were not allowed to go to school. As conditions in the city worsened, the girls were sent to a farm to be cared for in exchange for a hefting boarding fee. When the parents stopped writing, the girls were turned out of the house and left on their own. They turned themselves into the local law enforcement, not knowing what else to do, and were supposed to be sent to be reunited with their parents at Auschwitz. Instead, they ended up at Bergen Belsen, and endured many hardships. Renee managed to keep Herta safe from guard as well as the medical establishment that wanted to experiment on her. After the war, it took some time to regain their strength, but eventually relatives in the US brought the girls over, and they made lives for themselves here. 
Strengths: Like Ruth Gruener's Out of Hiding and Rena Finder's A Girl on Schindler's List, this memoir offers a less greaphic overview of one experience of the Holocaust that is a good introduction to the era for younger readers. Herta's deafness adds another layer of interest; the only other book I can think that covers this topic is LeZotte's T4: A Novel in Verse (2008). The Holocaust is a perennially popular topic, even though our eighth grade curriculm might no longer cover it. 
Weaknesses: Perhaps I didn't see it in the E ARC, but a map of the areas the girls were in would have been helpful. 
What I really think: Somehow this cover is really appealing, and I probably need to go through and do a refresh on my Holocaust books even though the 8th grade may not be covering it. While this was a bit simplistic for me, since I have read hundreds of Holocaust novels and memoirs, I do think it will be informative for younger readers, and I love the fact that it is based on actual interviews with Herta and Renee. 

Tokuda-Hall, Maggie and Imamura, Yas (Illus.)Love in the Library
January 11th 2022 by Candlewick Press
E ARC Provided by Edelweiss Plus

This charmingly illustrated picture book gives a brief overview of life in a Japanese internment camp during WWII. Based on the story of the author's maternal grandparents, we see the the desolate conditions under which families were forced to live by the US government, but we also see touching, everyday, human moments, like the growing relationship between Tama, who works in the camp library, and George, who finds excuses to visit her. The colors and illustration style is reminscent of books from the 1940s (and 1950s), and the story is a sweet one of life going on despite horrendous circumstances. For a middle school library, I would have liked a little more information, but this would be a good introduction to a facet of WWII of which some people are still unaware. 

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