Obviously, some topics are best reserved for an older audience. Thus deciding when to include the topic of the Holocaust can be a controversial. I was surprised that the librarians at my local public library chose not to place Benno and the Night of the Broken Glass, by Meg Wiviott and illustrated by, Josee Bisaillon (Lerner Publishing Company, 2010) in the juvenile picture book section. Instead the book was placed among the chapter books. I needed the help of a librarian to find the book.
Looking at the cover, a reader would instantly think it was designed for a younger audience. A harmless prancing cat is seen in front of broken pane of glass. Without knowing that the term “the Night of the Broken Glass” refers to Kristallnacht, it would be impossible to realize that the content of the book revolves around the start of the Holocaust. Kristallnacht, the beginning of the Holocaust, occurred on November 9 &10, 1938. The terror and violence that affected almost all of the Jews in Germany was an extreme reaction to the assassination of a German official. Approximately, 100 Jews were killed, 7,500 Jewish-owned businesses were destroyed, and 30,000 arrests were made.
Using this point in history, Meg creates a story that weaves together factual elements from Kristallnacht with fictional characters and a curious cat named Beeno. The Jewish and Gentile characters of the story are introduced as Beeno wanders around a Jewish neighborhood near the Neue Synagogue in Berlin. The peaceful nature of the community in the days prior to Kristallnacht are contrasted with the chaos that occurred as a result of Kristallnacht. Josee’s pictures show how the lives of the main characters were changed. An afterward and a bibliography provide useful information to anyone who wants to learn more details about Kristallnacht.
- Vocabulary- Kristallnacht, Holocaust, guten morgen, Frau, Herr, brown-shirted men, Torah
- World War II
- Prejudice, bias, anti-Semitism- (Anti Defamation League – A World of Difference Institute)
- Respecting people’s differences
- Use of animals as main characters
- Third person narratives
- Historical fiction vs. non-fiction
- What is the appropriate age to introduce the Holocaust?
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