Every year, Jews around the world remember Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is called Yom Hashoah in Hebrew. This is to make sure that the six million Jews killed by the Nazis are never forgotten. It’s hard for adults to understand how terrible the Holocaust was. How do we talk about it with our kids? These picture books, middle-grade books, and young adult books are good places to start.
The Tree in the Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank’s Window
by Jeff Gottesfeld, illustrated by Peter McCarty
Even people who know a lot about Anne Frank’s story will be enthralled by The Tree in the Courtyard. There is a chestnut tree in the courtyard of the factory where Anne and her family are hiding. It tells the story of Anne and her family. Anne’s activities are watched by the tree, and it changes with the seasons. But this is also the tree’s story. It’s heartwarming, surprising, and shows how important it is to be a witness and share stories.
I Will Come Back for You: A Family in Hiding During World War II
by Marisabina Russo
An American girl asks her nonna (Italian for “grandmother”) why she never takes off her charm bracelet. Her nonna tells the story of how her Jewish family survived the Second World War in Italy, and the girl is shocked. Russo is very skilled at telling a story that is both hopeful and heartbreaking in a way that is just right for young people to read. An afterword tells about what Russo’s grandmother, first husband, and children went through in war-torn Italy.
Benno and the Night of Broken Glass
by Meg Wiviott, illustrated by Josee Bisaillon
Benno the cat lives in Berlin. He sleeps in the basement of an apartment building that is home to both Christian and Jewish families, and he walks around his neighborhood getting scraps (and ear scratches) from the people who work there. He is “welcome by everyone.” When men in brown shirts burn books and smash the windows of businesses owned by Jews, Benno’s world is forever changed, and he can’t go back.
Hana’s Suitcase: The Quest to Solve a Holocaust Mystery
by Karen Levine
Because an empty suitcase with the words “Hana Brady, May 16, 1931, Orphan” painted on it was sent to a Holocaust museum in Japan, the curator of the museum knew that she had to find out what happened to Hana. People will be glued to the pages of this gripping real-life thriller.
Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust
by Loïc Dauvillier, illustrated by Marc Lizano, colored by Greg Salsedo
My daughter is a big fan of graphic novels, no matter what the subject is. I was happy to find Hidden. A grandmother tells her granddaughter the story of how her non-Jewish neighbors in Paris kept her safe after the Nazis sent her parents to a concentration camp. The pictures and words are both beautiful and moving.
by Maryann Macdonald
My daughter found Odette’s Secrets at the library and read it in one afternoon. Odette is a young Jewish girl who lived in Paris during the occupation. This story is based on a true story about a young Jewish girl living in Paris. Before the war ends, her father joins the French army and her mother joins the Resistance. She is sent to the country until the war is over. When she wants to stay safe, she has to act like a normal French girl in order to do so. But keeping her true identity a secret is very tiring and makes her wonder who she really is.
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit
by Judith Kerr
I didn’t know I hadn’t read When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit until an English friend told me about it. She was shocked and told me to get a copy. Judith Kerr’s book about her own life is a classic in the United Kingdom, and rightly so. In Berlin, there are a lot of posters with a man in them that Anna sees all over. She doesn’t understand why her family has to leave because of him. Anna’s family moves around a lot during the war because they have the money to live well and stay safe. As a result, this well-known book is a good one for us to read now.
What the Night Sings
by Vesper Stamper
There aren’t many books about the Holocaust that focus on what happened to concentration camp survivors after they were freed. That’s where the book What the Night Sings starts. In the end, Gerta was freed from the Bergen-Belson concentration camp. She now has to start the long process of physical and mental recovery. Gerta’s emotions are shown through beautiful illustrations in this powerful, heart-wrenching historical novel about human strength.
Mapping the Bones
by Jane Yolen
During World War II, Dr. Josef Mengele was one of the most infamous Nazi doctors ever. He was known for his experiments on twins that were very bad. Deeply moving: In this book by the author of The Devil’s Arithmetic, Chaim and his sister Gittel meet a cruel Nazi doctor who has a strange interest in twins. Yolen draws on the “Hansel and Gretel” fairy tale to paint a new story of love and hope against all odds.
Anna and the Swallow Man
by Gavriel Saviet
A book about a 7-year-old girl who is left alone in 1939 Krakow after her father is taken away by German soldiers made me wonder what to expect. He takes her under his wing and can speak many languages, like her father. Is he her hero, her protector, or could he be dangerous? This book is as much about friendship and trust as it is about the Holocaust. It will keep tweens and teens reading.
The Berlin Boxing Club
by Robert Sharenow
To be honest, this book’s title turned me off. Because, after all, I’m not even remotely interested in boxing. But I’m glad I gave the book a chance. This isn’t just a story about the terrible things that happened in Nazi Germany. It’s also a story about who you are, your family, and how you grow up.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
by John Boyne, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
There are some things that are hard to understand whether you’re fifteen or fifty. Books like The Boy in the Striped Pajamas are important because they help people connect with difficult topics through stories about their own lives. Ten years after I finished this book, I still think about the story of the friendship between the son of a Nazi officer and a boy in a concentration camp. It’s a powerful story.
In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer
by Irene Gut Opdyke as told to Jennifer Armstrong
It’s hard not to feel bad about humanity when we think about the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, or any other atrocity. Start by reading books like In My Hands. In this memoir, my daughter couldn’t put down the story of a Polish teenager who put herself in harm’s way to protect her Jewish friends during World War II. Anne Frank said, “No matter what, I believe that people are really good at heart.” Irene Gut Opdyke’s life is like that.