I spent most of my career working with kids who had special needs in elementary school. My husband is the son of Holocaust survivors, and we raised two kids together. He is also my best friend. But if you asked any of my friends or coworkers to describe me in 10 words or less, they would say: That’s me! “Oh, she’s a big reader.” When she has a book in her hand, “always” She likes to talk about books. Yes, I read a lot. I love talking about books, researching books, following my favorite authors on social media, and going to author events, both in person and now online, during the pandemic.
It all began when I learned to read. During childhood, I was shy and didn’t have many friends. I hid in a world of books and stories because I didn’t have many people to play with. My favorite days at school were when I went to the library every week, when there were Book Fairs, and when the Scholastic Book orders were given out. My dad took me to the public library every Saturday, and I felt so grown up when I went down to the YA section. It was a big deal! As an adult, I have a lot of different tastes in different types of movies and TV shows. To be an educator and a parent, I have always been interested in books for kids. As a child, I loved reading the books that made me so happy. As a parent, I loved sharing these with my own kids, as well as looking into the new trends and titles that excited them. My favorite subject to teach is, of course, reading, and we always had a lot of fun talking about the most popular books with my middle-school students. When I read on my own, I like to read contemporary and historical fiction, especially stories about World War II. This will be the subject of the next essay.
I was interested in the Holocaust when I was a child because of my sixth-grade teacher. In the 1960s, he was a World War II veteran. He had served in Europe and had been to Europe. Social studies class: He told us some of his stories. They were very different from those of my father, who had been in the Pacific. Inspired by these stories, I looked for books and movies set in this time, starting with the Diary of Anne Frank. I also watched old movies like Journey for Margaret, Mrs. Miniver, and the movie based on Anne Frank’s diary. Old, vintage, black and white movies were shown on TV a long time ago, when cable TV and movie channels were not yet common.
The Holocaust and World War II books that are aimed at middle-school and young-adult readers are what I’m going to write about in this paper. They are all different types of literature. Some were written a long time ago that still have a lot of fans today, and some are newer additions to this ever-growing trend in books. As a child, I learned about the Holocaust when I read The Diary of Anne Frank at the age of 11 or 12. It was even worse back then. When I was in high school, I didn’t know about the devastation and horror until then. Textbooks can only teach us so much. Fiction writing and memoirs tell stories that are emotional, real, and vivid, just like TV or movies. During my time as a young adult and adult bibliophile, I chose books about this time in history in order to pursue my interest in this subject. He happened to be the son of survivors. I was lucky that they shared their stories with me and my kids before they died. It’s been a lot more popular in recent years, and in some places, it’s even required to teach about the Holocaust in school. In other words, at what age is it OK to share this kind of information, and through what kinds of materials?
They learn about acceptance, tolerance, and diversity through picture books, games, and activities they do every day, like going to the store or going to school. However, as a parent and teacher, I think that kids in middle school are old enough to start learning about the Holocaust as an important historical era, and what better way to learn and understand that than through age-appropriate books and other materials?
My favorite children’s and young adult books are on this list. Most of them are new, but there are a few that I read in the 1960s and 1970s. These suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg. There are more books coming out every day that can help you teach about this time in history.
The Butterfly by Patricia Polacco
Children will enjoy this book because it talks about the Holocaust in a way that is both easy to understand and realistic. This is a very unique book for kids. It’s a great way for young kids to learn about the Holocaust. I found this book in a second-grade classroom library, and so I learned about this great author. Do not be fooled by the fact that this is a book for little kids. It talks about adult issues in a way that is very age-appropriate.
These things help Patricia Polacco weave the true story of a woman who helped hide Jewish families in Nazi-occupied France in a way that young students can understand the young daughter of this brave woman. When a young person reads this book, they will understand what happened and how scary it was, but they won’t be scared by graphic images. When it comes to telling stories and drawing pictures, Patricia Polacco is an expert. She can take any subject, no matter how difficult, and make it understandable to kids. Even though this book wasn’t around when my kids were little, I had the chance to show it to a fourth grader who was having a hard time reading. After he finished the book, he was inspired to look for more information about the subject. He kept up his research through fifth grade.
Picture Book of Anne Frank by David A. Adler
I put these two Anne Frank books together because they are aimed at the same group of people. My first introduction to the Holocaust came when I read The Diary of Anne Frank in sixth grade. It was a book about a Jewish girl who was forced to hide from the Nazis in Europe.
However, when my daughter started asking questions about her grandmother’s past, I found a lot of books for kids. When we were told to read and research a biography for the second-grade “biography breakfast,” we found A Picture Book of Anne Frank by David A. Adler, which we found when we were told to do that. Children’s author Mr. Adler has written a lot of books about important people in history, and he has a series of biographies that are often used to teach kids about people from the past. The Anne Frank book has “kid-friendly” illustrations and text that make the difficult subject matter more understandable to young people. The book also has a note from the author and important facts and dates. In the 1990s, when my daughter was in second grade, we read this book together. It is still in my home library.
In third grade last year, a girl made a “wax museum” project about Anne Frank. I was very happy to help her. This is what we did: We used my copy of the David A. Adler book, and we also added a book from the popular series “Who Is/Was?” called “Who was Anne Frank by Ann Abramson.” It tells the story of Anne Frank’s life before she and her family were forced into hiding, when she lived in the attic apartment, and what happened after she died. There are black and white illustrations, maps, and diagrams, and the biography is a good choice for younger and less-experienced readers, as well as those who aren’t very good at reading. Both of these books are great introductions to the life of a person who played a big role in this tragic time in history. My third grader, who has trouble reading, tried to read the real diary with help from her older siblings. It was one of the books she took home from the school library when the pandemic shut down everything.
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Number the Stars is an important part of the fourth-grade curriculum in our school district. It has been a part of the curriculum since my now-adult daughter was in school, and it hasn’t changed. During fourth grade, she read it. It is still used in the classroom to read aloud today. When it came out in 1989, it won the Newberry Award and the National Jewish Book Award for children’s books. The movie is set in Nazi-occupied Denmark and shows the bravery of people who risk their lives to help their Jewish neighbors.
Middle-grade novels like this one are meant to teach young people about a time in history, but they don’t tell them about things that are scary or graphic. When used in the classroom, the book can be used as a starting point for more study of the Holocaust, which can be tailored to each student’s level of development and knowledge.
Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan
It’s been around for a while, but it’s still good. I remember reading this book as a child. It was written in 1942 during the war. One time two years ago, it was used in the fourth-grade resource room with Number the Stars. The book is set in Nazi-occupied Norway, and it tells the story of a group of kids who were hired to smuggle gold bullion past the enemy soldiers to get to a ship that would take the gold to the United States.
This book is a fast-paced, suspenseful story that may be based on real events. It can lead to more study based on the students’ interests and needs. Because it was the winner of the Young Reader’s Choice Award in 1945, you should read it.
Escape from Warsaw by Ian Serraillier
This is another book that I remember reading when I was young. This is a book about three kids who are trying to get out of Warsaw so they can be with their parents, who may be in Switzerland. They are trying to get to them.
When the book was written in 1956, it was called The Silver Sword. It is based on real events. The book has more information and details about the war and how the Jewish people were treated. Because of this, I think older people should read it (tweens). It is a great children’s book, and I think it would be great for a class read-aloud or for a parent and child to read together.
I Survived the Nazi Invasion by Lauren Tarshis
An even more recent book on this list is I Survived, The Nazi Invasion by Lauren Tarshis, which is about a girl who lived through the Nazi invasion. The I Survived series is very popular with middle-schoolers because it uses a fast-paced and dramatic way to show historical events to young people. They show kids who are in a situation, and the reader is swept along on their journey as they face huge challenges. During World War II, Nazis took over Poland, and a brother and sister are trying to get away.
During the movie, there is a lot of action and suspense, as well as fear and information about how living in an occupied country affects its people. There is also a section with the author’s notes and facts. In the same way as many other books, this one can also be used as a starting point for more research, depending on what the reader wants to learn.