NOTE: Since the publishing of this post, I have created an Annotated List of Holocaust Picture Books which includes the following books, and many more. Get that free resource and be sure to share recommendations I may have missed!
"... in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at
heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion,
misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I
hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the
sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it
will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and
tranquility will return again."
Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
by Patricia Polacco
Monique awakens one night and imagines that she sees a ghost in her room. She later discovers that the ghost is actually a young Jewish girl, being hidden from the Nazis who occupy the French town. Although the symbol of a butterfly as freedom may seem too familiar to adults, students will enjoy identifying and discussing the metaphorical meaning of the book's title. This book, too, is based upon actual events, this time involving relatives of the author.
The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark
by Carmen Agra Deedy
When Denmark is occupied by the Nazis, King Christian X is allowed to remain in office, and he faithfully rides, unguarded, through the streets of Copenhagen each day, greeting his subjects. When this popular king learns that the Nazis plan to force Danish Jews to wear stars, the king enlists his tailor to sew a Star of David on his tunic. The following day the king, who is not Jewish, proudly wears the star as he takes his morning ride. His subjects, inspired by this act of bravery and resistance, follow his example. Unfortunately, the author explains at the book's end, this story did not, in fact, happen in this way. But, she asks, what if it had? What if the king had summoned the courage to do this? And what if everyone in the world, when facing unfairness and prejudice, were brave enough to stand up for what is right?
I Never Saw Another Butterfly
by Hana Volavkova
"Fifteen thousand children under the age of fifteen passed through the Terezin Concentration Camp. Fewer than 100 survived. In these poems and pictures drawn by the young inmates, we see the daily misery of these uprooted children, as well as their hopes and fears, their courage and optimism." (from the Amazon.com Review)
This unusual picture book contains drawings and verse from children who passed through a German concentration camp. A simple, yet powerful, book for sharing.
Before Reading Questions
- What do we know about World War II? Why was it called a world war? Which countries were at war?
- Who has ever heard of the Holocaust? What do we know about that event?
- What is meant by prejudice? What seems to be that word's root word? Who has ever heard of the word tolerance?
- What are your feelings about this book?
- What would you have done in this same situation?
- Who had difficult choices to make? Who was forced to act in a certain way without any other choice?
- Think about our themes for this unit. How are those themes addressed here?
- Let me share with you what the author wrote at the end of this book (share any additional historical information which the author or editor have provided). How does that help us better understand what we read?
- The nation of Israel created a postage stamp and a monument to honor the Danes who helped smuggle Jews from their country during World War II. Similarly, students could design a stamp, monument, or other memorial to honor a person or group of people who exhibited bravery or integrity during this troubling time.
- Many Jews were able to emigrate from Europe in order to escape the Nazi regime. Who were some of the most famous Jewish refugees? What contributions have they made to American culture? An excellent picture book for understanding the refuge experience is Ann E. Burg's Rebekkah's Journey, a meticulously researched historical fiction picture book which describes President Franklin D. Roosevelt's plan to shelter 1000 Jews in upstate New York. The facts are given a human perspective through the eyes of seven-year-old Rebekkah.
- In 1998, the principal of Whitwell Middle School in Whitwell, Tennessee wanted to open her students eyes to the world beyond their small, rural community. Students and teachers began collecting six million paper clips to symbolize the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. The project took on a life of its own, which is chronicled in an excellent documentary titled Paper Clips. You can find an informative discussion of that film at the American Historical Association site. This movie is appropriate for grades four and up. After viewing the film, students can discuss which understandings of the Holocaust were confirmed, and what new information was gained. Older students may even wish to research media reactions to this project; not all were supportive.
- Students can research Holocaust memorials throughout the world. How are the victims and heroes of this tragic event remembered?