Monday, April 27, 2015

Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust by Loïc Dauvillier, Marc Lizano (Illustrations), Greg Salsedo (Ink), Alexis Siegel (Translator)

The Holocaust Museum addresses the age-appropriateness of introducing the Holocaust to children. It specifies that students grades 6 and up can understand the complexities and context of the Holocaust, while younger students struggle with the scale and scope of the genocide. Elementary students can be taught tolerance and the harmfulness of prejudice, but the texts need to be more introductory in nature rather than comprehensive. Hidden provides an excellent launching point of introducing the Holocaust through the eyes of a grandma sharing her story of persecution during World War II with her granddaughter. Readers will empathize with the grandmother's fear and pain, while seeing how Jewish students were singled out and mistreated at school. The dark side of human nature is balanced with adults risking their lives in the Resistance to save the young Jewish girl and hide her from the authorities on a countryside farm.

The story is framed by the granddaughter, Elsa, getting up in the middle of the night and finding her grandmother, Dounia, crying. She crawls into her lap and asks why she is sad, so the grandmother tells her story for the first time in her life. At the end it is revealed that the son didn't even know about his mother being hidden from the Nazis. Dounia shows how deep her grief was over the trauma, but by talking to her granddaughter the story shows the possibility of her healing from her painful past.

The father tells the girl that the star she must wear is a sheriff's badge and she goes to school only to be pushed to the back of the classroom, ignored by the teacher when she knows the answer to a question, and put down by the teacher. The author does a brilliant job unfolding her innocent belief that it was a badge and how her parents in an effort to protect her didn't prepare her for the anger she had to face at school. She later learns of her friend, Isaac's public shaming in class. She and another girl with a badge/star are shunned and isolated on the playground. The color illustrations capture their downcast faces contrasting with the other smiling students playing hopscotch and tag.

When the police ransack her place, she finds a reprieve in the countryside on a farm. Working on the farm helps her forget all the frightening moments that led her to it and the reader learns about those citizens that were not Jewish, but risked their lives to help Jews escape the atrocities that were being done to eliminate them. The speech bubbles change in color to indicate when the Grandmother is talking to her granddaughter. This helps guide the narration and makes the dialogue clear.

The Charlie Brown-type illustrations are childlike and support the introductory text. Tension mounts as Dounia sees stars like graffiti on the glass of the shops owned by Jews and police hurting adults and spitting on them. The images show more than the text and reflects Dounia's bewilderment at why her city has changed into such a harsh place. When she later has to change her name to protect her identity and the people hiding her, her expression is afraid or unhappy. Eventually she learns to smile again but not before having to face physical changes in others and death.

5 Smileys

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