My sister teaches first grade in a smallish city and in a neighborhood with zero Jewish kids. She isn’t Jewish herself, but she makes a point during the school year to introduce her little people to Passover and Hanukkah as a friendly and fun entree to Jewishness. This is all they get of Jew stuff anywhere, unless you count who knows what references absorbed from TV and movies, or what is discussed over the dinner table.
Jewish holidays are not part of her school curriculum: it is from her own initiative and time and wallet that these relentlessly WASPy children are exposed to another tradition. By now, she has plenty of picture books, toys, tchochkes, and ideas lined up to make these two holidays fun, memorable, and of course, edible.
Last week, she was on her first European tourama, and her stops (self-directed, as usual) included Dachau and Anne Frank’s house. She said Anne Frank’s house had a gift shop, but she couldn’t find any books that looked good to bring home for the first graders. I could not let a book challenge go unmet. I went straight to Google and Amazon and AnneFrank.com, looking for age-appropriate picture books. Something not too graphic or detailed, but something not to vague and watered-down. Is there just a thing? Can we imagine such a thing? Should we even be looking for a book on Anne Frank for seven year-olds?
I found two promising titles for slightly older kids, and I’m listing them below in case anyone has actually read them. I’m getting both from the library….
As for books about the Holocaust in general, I save Patricia Polacco’s “The Butterfly” for older kids. It looks like a picture book, but it is way, way too wordy and scary for the wee.
So far, my favorite general title is “My Secret Camera” by Frank Dabba Smith. It is a short book of photographs by Mendel Grossman, who documented four years of life in the Lodz ghetto with a hidden camera. The pictures really do speak for themselves, but Smith adds a simple commentary you can take or leave.