An amazing story of survival and hope that will resonate with audiences of all ages.

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Brisko: A True Tale of Survival

Winkelstein’s (Elephant, Elephant, Come Alive!, 2011, etc.) YA novel offers the compelling account of a Holocaust survivor.

Libe is only 7 years old when the Nazis come to her home in Tuchin, Poland. Her family is Jewish, so their lives are in great danger; in fact, she and her mother are brutally beaten and barely survive. Soon the family loses their possessions and, eventually, their home. Libe and her family are forced to move to the local ghetto, where her sister, Channah, gets separated from them. It’s only thanks to the kindness of Pavlo, a Ukrainian farmer, that they escape the massacre of the town’s Jewish population in 1942. Libe’s father manages to join them at Pavlo’s farm, where they hide themselves away for 18 months. During this period, the family spends time in a haystack, crammed together and with very little food or water. Libe considers Pavlo’s dog, Brisko, to be an unlikely angel; he seems to sense their plight and sounds the alarm whenever danger is nearby. He also serves as a beacon of hope and strength to young Libe in the midst of so much terror and death. Winkelstein fictionalizes the true story of a Holocaust survivor named Laura, using her memories, her father’s videotaped oral history, and his own extensive research into the Holocaust. The author masterfully tells this moving, difficult story, which includes brutal violence, fear, loss, and death, by doing so through the eyes of a child. Along the way, he challenges his young target audience to situate themselves in a very different time and place, concisely defines difficult concepts such as “pogrom” and “Judenrat,” and confronts questions of good and evil. Overall, it’s an honest look at the Holocaust that’s appropriate for young readers without dumbing down real-life history or glossing over the truth. Juliano’s beautiful and often bleak illustrations provide a wonderful accompaniment.

An amazing story of survival and hope that will resonate with audiences of all ages.

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-0982449868

Page Count: 142

Publisher: Mystic Waters Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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THE LORAX

The greening of Dr. Seuss, in an ecology fable with an obvious message but a savingly silly style. In the desolate land of the Lifted Lorax, an aged creature called the Once-ler tells a young visitor how he arrived long ago in the then glorious country and began manufacturing anomalous objects called Thneeds from "the bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees." Despite protests from the Lorax, a native "who speaks for the trees," he continues to chop down Truffulas until he drives away the Brown Bar-ba-loots who had fed on the Tuffula fruit, the Swomee-Swans who can't sing a note for the smogulous smoke, and the Humming-Fish who had hummed in the pond now glumped up with Gluppity-Glupp. As for the Once-let, "1 went right on biggering, selling more Thneeds./ And I biggered my money, which everyone needs" — until the last Truffula falls. But one seed is left, and the Once-let hands it to his listener, with a message from the Lorax: "UNLESS someone like you/ cares a whole awful lot,/ nothing is going to get better./ It's not." The spontaneous madness of the old Dr. Seuss is absent here, but so is the boredom he often induced (in parents, anyway) with one ridiculous invention after another. And if the Once-let doesn't match the Grinch for sheer irresistible cussedness, he is stealing a lot more than Christmas and his story just might induce a generation of six-year-olds to care a whole lot.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1971

ISBN: 0394823370

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1971

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