Gifts from the Enemy

Gifts from the Enemy9781935952978_p0_v2_s260x420Gifts from the Enemy

Trudy Ludwig, Author

Craig Orback, Illustrator

White Cloud Press,  Biography, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Alter Wiener, Poland, Jews, Holocaust, Survivor, Courage, Kindness

Opening: “There are those who say that what I’ve lived through never happened. But I’m here to tell you that it did. My name is Alter Wiener and I am an ordinary person with an extraordinary past.”

Synopsis: Alter Wiener was a 13-year-old boy living with his family in Chrzanow, a small town in southwest Poland. His home was filled with love, laughter, food and books. Every Friday they shared their Sabbath dinner with a student or homeless person. When the German Nazi soldiers invaded and occupied Poland in 1939, Hitler ordered his army to imprison and kill millions of Jews. Alter’s father and older brother were taken when he was 13. The Nazis came for him when he was 15. He was moved to many different prison labor camps where the conditions were deplorable.  The prisoners wer treated cruelly, given very little food and forced to work long hours. Years passed and he found himself working in a German factory. One day he began receiving a daily gift from a stranger who he thought was his enemy. Her kindness gave Alter the hope to survive.

Why I like this book: Trudy Ludwig has treated Alter Wiener’s story about surviving the Holocaust with great compassion and dignity. Since it is a picture book, she doesn’t go into detail about the atrocities that occurred during WW II.  Instead she focuses on the fact that not all Germans were filled with the hatred and risked their lives to help the Jews. Gifts from the Enemy is an excellent introduction to the Holocaust for young readers. It also is a timely classroom book for children to understand the dangers of hatred, prejudice and intolerance. It is critical that as a society we begin to encourage kindness, compassion, and goodwill among our children so they will have the tools to stand up to social injustice and make sure genocide is a thing of the past. Craig Orback’s illustrations are breathtaking and realistic. His oil paintings capture the fear and darkness of that time in history.

Resources: There is a beautiful afterword from Alter Wiener, who wrote his memoir From a Name to a Number: A Holocaust Survivor’s Autobiography. Trudy Ludwig provides a wealth of resources for teachers to use in the classroom. She includes information about the Holocaust, questions for discussion and recommended activities for young readers. You may want to visit Trudy Ludwig on her website. She is a nationally acclaimed speaker and author whose work helps empower children to cope with and thrive in their social world. Craig Orback  has illustrated over 20 children’s books, including The Can Man and Nature’s Paintbox.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

49 thoughts on “Gifts from the Enemy

  1. I didn’t recognize the illustrator until you mentioned The Can Man near the end. Thanks for that! This looks like a good read for adults, too.


    • You are welcome. I’ve known about this book for some time and have been patiently waiting for its release. Trudy Ludwig has written so many wonderful bullying books for children, so this book is different for Trudy and she is pleased with it. And, it does involve bullying in a different way.


    • Actually, it is not a deep book, but an uplifting book about generosity of a stranger to Alter when he needed to believe there was still goodness in the world. The picture book is 32 pages. It is an easy way to introduce the Holocaust to children because of her positive approach. Minimal details are given about labor camps. I would read it to my 8-year-old granddaughter. But, you are right it is really for kids in 4th and 5th grade. Even adults would enjoy how she handled the subject. Hope you have the chance to read it.


  2. Thank you, Patricia, for featuring my new book, GIFTS FROM THE ENEMY on CHILDREN’s BOOKS HEAL. I am so grateful that you found this book a powerful and important read for children…and adults! It is truly my hope that GIFTS FROM THE ENEMY will be used for grades 3 and up to help children understand in an age-appropriate way the dangers of hatred, stereotyping and prejudice. As I wrote in the story, “There are the kind and the cruel in every group of people. How someone treats you is far more important than who they are.”

    I’ve also included on my RESOURCES website page full-blown, ready-made Common Core /ELA lesson plans for educators of grades 3-6 and grades 7-12, respectively. They were written by Dr. Rose Reissman, a literacy expert and the Director of the Writing Institute at Ditmas IS-62 in New York. Here’s a link to the grades 3-6 lesson plans teachers are most welcome to access:

    Click to access GiftsLessonsGrades3_6CC%20Plan.pdf

    All my very best- Trudy


    • Trudy,
      I am glad you enjoyed my review. Thank you for pointing out in more detail why you felt it so important to share Alter’s story. And, thank you for giving more detailed information about the resources and how teachers can use the book in the classroom. It’s an important story to share with children.


  3. Wow! That sounds a moving inspiring story. I visited Poland many years ago and my one regret was that we did not get down to Krakow and the surrounding area. I liked Trudy’s comment above about, it’s the way people treat you that is more important than who they are. Excellent review Pat, as always.


    • I’m glad you liked the review. Yes, I loved her comment too! It is a beautiful story with goregous illustrations. Hope you have a chance to read it since you’ve been to Poland. And, of course I know of your humanitarian interests and activities.


  4. Yay, Trudy … another winner! I actually thought for years before I met her that Trudy was a counselor, largely in part because she addresses tough issues so delicately and with such great sensitivity. Thank you, Pat, for letting me know that this new treasure is now available!


    • Yes, this is a winner. And, I believe she feels this is the most important story she’s told. There are so many teachable moments and ways to use the book in the classroom. And she makes it easy for teachers.


  5. Thanks so much for introducing this book to us. Yes, it certainly is important to see hope in the dire situations of holocaust. When I have more time, I’ll go look the author’s web site. For now, I put this book on hold at my library. 🙂


    • I have reviewed so many of Trudy’s bullying books for PPBF and there is an element of bullying in this story. It will be a great classroom book for teachers to talk about social justice and kindness.


    • Erik, you would appreciate this book. It handles the topic of the Holocaust with sensitivity. And, I like how a stranger (the enemy) was so kind to Alter and risked her life. Not all Germans believed in what Hitler was doing.


    • The illustrations are beautiful! I love how Trudy approaches the topic of the Holocaust in such a positive and sensitive way. I used to avoid everything about the Holocaust — even in college. Then one day, I started reading everything I could get my hands on and watching every movie made on the subject. I love the stories about those heroes who risked their lives under to help Jews escape.


  6. Great message in this book. My husband’s great uncle was a Holocaust survivor–the only one from his small town in Germany. A few years ago, the people of the town built a school in his honor and one of the school’s purposes is to promote an awareness of tolerance.


    • Thank you for sharing info about your husband’s uncle. What an honor to have a school that promotes tolerance and awareness named after him. Yes, this is a book that helps kids look at what prejudice and hatred can do. And, it does promote tolerance.


  7. Pingback: Perfect Picture Book Friday/ Confessions of a Former Bully | Clarbojahn's Blog

  8. Pingback: Review! Gifts from the Enemy by Trudy Ludwig | This Kid Reviews Books

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