I Will Protect You: A True Story of Twins Who Survived Auschwitz by Eva Mozes Kor with Danica Davidson

I Will Protect You: A True Story of Twins who Survived Auschwitz

Eva Mozes Kor with Danica Davidson, Authors

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, Nonfiction, Apr. 5, 2022

Pages: 240

Suitable for Ages 8-12

Themes: Jews, Romania, Twins, Persecution, Holocaust, Auschwitz, Medical experimentation, Survivors, Biography

Book Jacket Synopsis:

The unforgettable true story of sisterhood and survival during the Holocaust.

Eva and her identical twin sister, Miriam, had a fairly happy childhood as part of the only Jewish family in their small Transylvania mountain village — until antisemitism reared its ugly head in their school. Then, in 1944, ten-year-old Eva and her family were deported to a ghetto for several weeks and then put on a cattle car for Auschwitz. At its gates, Eva and Miriam were separated from their parents and two other siblings, The twins were selected as subjects for Dr. Josef Mengele’s infamous medical experiments. Her family was sent to the gas chamber.

At Auschwitz, twins were considered the lucky ones because their lives were spared.. Eva became “A-7063” and Miriam “A-7064.” They were housed in rat-infested wooden barracks several miles from Auschwitz, allowed to wear their own clothing, and fed bread and a fake coffee daily. In return, they were  subjected to Mengele’s cruel medical experiments and fought daily to survive.

During the course of the war, Mengele would experiment on 3,000 twins. Only 160 would survive–including Eva and Miriam.

Writing with her friend Danica Davidson, Eva reveals how two young girls were able to survive the Nazi’s unimaginable cruelty of the Nazi regime. Eva eventually found healing through forgiveness. Written  specifically for young readers, I Will Protect You is an accessible and deeply moving memoir of survival, forgiveness, and hope.

What I like about I Will Protect You:

I Will Protect You is a powerful and inspiring story of survival, narrated by Eva Mozes Kor with author Danica Davidson. Kor gives readers a firsthand account of the twin experiments and their interaction with Dr. Mengele. However, they wrote Kor’s story with a younger audience in mind. It is presented with sensitivity and is age-appropriate.  

I especially appreciated how Davidson set the stage of “hatred” at the start of the book. Hate begins with name-calling, exaggerated drawings, objects thrown at your home, neighbors spying on your activities and threats made against your family. People you thought were your friends, turn on you, don’t try to stop the retched name-calling and eventually become part of it. It all begins with HATE and it is a poignant lesson for all readers, especially during the times we live in. 

Eva’s mission throughout their ordeal was to protect Miriam. Eva was the strongest twin. She stood up for herself and was more outspoken and daring than Miriam, who was sweet and kind. She knew their survival depended upon her. Her instincts were good and she understood that the Nazis wanted to kill every single Jew. There was no time to feel sorry for herself, so she remained alert and depended upon luck. One ray of hope was the occasional nightly visits from her mama’s friend — a mother of twins — who was allowed to live at the camp. Mrs. Csengeri brought extra food, warm hats and clothing.

Eva became very sick from the injections she received and realized that Miriam was the “control” subject. Her strength of character and strong will kicked in and she was determined to survive for Miriam’s sake. She hid her illness because she was determined not to succumb to the experimentation. Her luck ran out when a nurse saw her swollen legs. She was taken to the Hospital Barracks to die. Her efforts to live were extraordinary. And she wouldn’t die and give Dr. Mengele that satisfaction. 

No matter what Eva lived through, readers won’t see hatred and bitterness. Yes she was angry, as would be expected. But she was focused on surviving the camp until it was liberated by the Soviets on Jan. 27, 1945, just shy of their 11th birthdays. What Eva experienced and saw was unspeakable, yet she was able to create a meaningful life for herself  in later years. She found healing through forgiveness.

I  spoke with Danica Davidson about her writing relationship with Eva Mozes Kor. Here’s what she had to say

Yes I worked very closely with Eva. I met her in the fall of 2018 when she gave a speech at a college about an hour from me. I introduced myself to her afterward, hoping I could interview her somewhere (as I am both author and journalist) and I mentioned I wrote kid’s books. She got very excited an said she wanted to write a children’s book about her survival, because she felt we needed to teach kids Holocaust stories early. She believed waiting until age 12 or later, when the Holocaust is usually taught at school (if it’s taught at all) is too late because prejudices are already formed.

“I interviewed her and discussed ideas I had for ways we could write a book. Then I did all the writing. I had the first draft finished in December and I sent her a few chapters at a time. She sent me her thoughts so I could make revisions. The manuscript was finished by March,  and Eva approved.  I submitted our story to my agent and received an offer from Little, Brown on June 19. Eva was so excited for this book. She was going on an educational trip to Auschwitz, and said as soon as she got back she’d start promoting the book. But she passed away on that trip, 15 days later on July 4, 2019.  It’s fallen to me to get the word out about her story and our book.”

Resources: Make sure you read Davidson’s Afterword about Eva Kor at the end of the book. She includes a speech Eva  had written and planned to deliver at Auschwitz on Jan. 27, 2020, the 75th anniversary of the death camp’s liberation. There is also a glossary and timetable.  

Eva Mozes Kor (1934 – 2019) was a Holocaust survivor, forgiveness advocate, and a public speaker. Powered by a never-give-up attitude, Eva emerged from a trauma-filled childhood as an example of the human spirit’s power to overcome.  Founded the CANDLES Holocaust Memorial Museum and Education Center in Terre Haute, Indiana, dedicated to the Twins Mengele victimized, in order to teach about the Holocaust and as a testament to the power of forgiveness. She was a community leader, champion of human rights, and tireless educator. A frequent public speaker, Eva was also the subject of a PBS documentary about her life. 

Danica Davidson wrote I Will Protect You under Eva’s supervision. Danica is the author of sixteen books for middle grade and young adult readers. Her books are used by Minecraft Education Edition in special lessons on reading, writing, and cyberbullying, available to millions of children in 115 countries. Danica invites you to visit her online at her website.  

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Make sure you check out the many links to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by Little Brown in exchange for a review.

Linked by Gordon Korman

Linked

Gordon Korman, Author

Scholastic Press, Fiction, Jul. 20, 2021

Pages: 256

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Themes: Hate, Tolerance, Holocaust, Jews, KKK, Self-discovery, Friendship, Community 

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Link, Michael, and Dana live in a quiet town in Chokecherry, Colorado. But it’s woken up very quickly when someone sneaks into middle school and vandalizes it with a swastika.

Nobody can believe it. How could such a symbol of hate end up in the middle of their school? Who would do such a thing?

Because Michael was the first person to see it, he’s the first suspect. Because Link is one of the most popular guys in school, everyone’s looking to him to figure it out. And because Dana’s the only Jewish girl in the whole town, everyone’s treating her more like an outsider than ever.

The mystery deepens as more swastikas begin to appear. Some students decide to fight back and start a project to bring people together instead of dividing them further. The closer Link, Michael, and Dana get to the truth, the more there is to face-not just the crimes of the present, but the crimes of the past.

With Linked, Gordon Korman, the author of the acclaimed novel Restart, poses a mystery for all readers where the who did it? isn’t nearly as important as the why?

Why I liked Linked:

Gordon Korman’s inspiring novel is about students working together to make a statement that HATE will not be tolerated in their middle school. Korman’s contemporary story is a timely read for young people. It connects the past, present and future into a powerful and important MUST read novel about hope.

Alternating voices allows readers to really get into the thoughts and emotions of well-developed  and believable main characters — Link, Michael, Dana, Caroline, Pouncey — and many more supporting characters. Link is the popular athlete, known to pull pranks with his group of friends, until a sobering family secret emerges. Dana is the only Jewish girl in school and feels like an outsider.  Michael is president of the art club and Pouncey’s grandfather is rumored to have been a member of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), Everyone is suspect, especially after 26 more swastikas continue to appear.

Together the students decide to make a statement and make a paper chain with six million links, each honoring a Holocaust victim. Before long, the entire community, country and world are involved in the paper chain project about tolerance and remembrance — thanks to a popular and questionable  “YouTube” video blogger who covers the events. There are many more moments in this story that demonstrate how kids can make a difference.

The plot is strong, realistic and relevant today.  Kudos to the author for writing a story that introduces readers to the horrors of the Holocaust, racism and the KKK in an understandable way. He shows how the past still can influence the present and how hate is not acceptable. There are many dark secrets and major twists and turns in this engaging mystery. The ending surprised me. The most important takeaway for readers is that the stories of the Holocaust and its victims must be told to each new generation and not forgotten.  

This story has a lot of heart and is one of my favorite reads this year. Although the subject of hate may seem heavy, it is balanced well with the students’ response and Korman’s uplifting writing and sense of humor throughout the story. And of course there is a lot of typical middle school drama in the mix. Make sure you read the author’s note about the story at the end.

Gordon Korman is the #1 bestselling author of such modern classics as Restart, War Stories, Slacker, Whatshisface, Ungifted, and This Can’t be Happening at Macdonald Hall (published when he was fourteen). He lives in New York with his family. Visit Korman at his website

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors. 

*I won this review copy of Linked on Greg Pattridge’s website Always in the Middle

 

 

Raquela’s Seder by Joel Edward Stein

Raquela’s Seder

Joel Edward Stein, Author

Sara Ugolotti, Illustrator

Kar – Ben Publishing,  Fiction, Feb. 1, 2022

Suitable for ages: 5-9

Themes: Passover, Seder, Jews, Spain, Inquisition

Opening: “Raquela had a secret. On Friday nights, she followed her parents down to the wine cellar under their house. There, her mother would light Shabbat candles, and her father would say a prayer over the wine. That secret room was the only place the Rivera family could celebrate Shabbat.”

Synopsis:

Raquela longs to celebrate Passover, even though Jews are not allowed to practice their religion in Inquisition-era Spain. King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella punish those who are caught observing Jewish customs or celebrating Jewish holidays. 

Raquela’s papa is the best fisherman in town. He knows that “you must think like a fish” and finds their best hiding places. He understands Raquela’s wish to celebrate a Passover and he has the perfect place.  Before Passover begins, he asks Mama to bake flat matzah and mix some dried fruit with nuts and spices and asks Raquela to gather some other items, including a table cloth.

The next day before sundown, Raquela and Mama quietly meet Papa at the beach and they sail to Papa’s favorite fishing hole. There he creates a unique Passover seder for the family, safe from any spies. And Raquela celebrates her first seder under the starry night. Papa explains the meaning of the foods and tells the Passover story in remembrance of the enslaved Jews in Egypt and their exodus to freedom. He also has a hope that “one day we will also be free in Spain — free to live as Jews.”

Why I like Raquela’s Seder:

Joel Edward Stein seamlessly weaves together two historic time periods of Jewish oppression into a moving Passover story of hope and freedom. His gentle text will engage children and will leave them feelings hopeful. Sara Ugolotti’s beautiful illustrations compliment the story, especially her stunning double-spreads of the family celebrating under a starry night. She cleverly includes some historic scenes of Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea. And look at that stunning cover!

I must admit, I didn’t know about how the Jews were treated in Spain. Make sure you check out the author’s Historical Note about the Spanish Inquisition, which lasted more than 350 years, ending in 1834. There is also a more detailed discussion about the Passover celebration. This book is certainly one to add to a home library. It is such a moving tale and relevant in today’s world.

Activities: This book would pair well with Pippa’s Passover Plate by our PPBF author/friend, Vivian Kirkfield. Explain the significance of each of the items on a seder plate and encourage your child to draw, cut, and glue their own plates with construction paper.   

Joel Edward Stein is a former staff writer for CTB/McGraw-Hill. A member of the Society of Chidlren’s Book Writers and Illustrators, he lives in Florida with his wife, son, two birds, and a tortoise. His books include A Hanukkah with Mazel, The Pigeon Man, and The Capture of Rafael Ortega.

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 website.

*Reviewed from a library book.

 

 

Village of Scoundrels by Margi Preus

Village of Scoundrels

Margi Preus, Author

Amulet Books, Fiction, 2019

Suitable for ages: 10-14

Themes: Jews, Teens, Underground movements, Refugees, France, WW II, German occupation, Smuggling, Community

Synopsis:

Forging documents, smuggling people over the border, carrying coded messages for the French resistance — the teenagers of Les Lauzes find ways to help the refugees in their midst. For the first years of World War II, the remoteness of their village offers them a certain amount of protection and the townspeople take on the task of sheltering Jewish children rescued form French concentration camps. But as the Nazi occupiers infiltrate every corner of France, the noose tightens, and the operation becomes increasingly dangerous.

First, a French policeman, Officer Perdant, is sent to spy on their doings and uncover the village “scoundrels” — the teenagers, pastors and others who have been aiding the visitors. Little does he know that the villagers watch him. And when the Gestapo arrives with a list of names, the young people must race against time to get their new friends to safety.

Based on a true story, Village of Scoundrels tells how ordinary people opposed the Nazi occupation and stood up for what was right, in spite of intensifying peril.

Why I like this book:

Margi Preus‘ The Village of Scoundrels is a courageous and suspenseful tale that has many heart-stopping moments. Expertly researched, her story is based on the true stories of real people that are woven together into a fictionalized tale that involves danger and a desire to save human lives at the risk of losing their own. Led by their hearts and the will to do good, this extraordinary mountain village of scoundrels — teens, pastors, teachers, farmers and shop owners — stand together and save the lives of 3,200 Jews.

The story is set in Les Lauzes, a village surrounded by beautiful forests and farmland. It has a high school that “promotes peace and international unity” and attracts teens from all over France and Europe. There is no single location for this non-traditional school, as classes are held in many different places throughout the village. The students live in a variety of boarding houses in the village. So it is easy for Jewish children to fit in when they are rescued and brought to the school.

The story is driven by a cast of young and brave characters! There is John-Paul Filon, 17, a Jew who is the master forger of documents, identity cards, and ration books. He even forges a letter so he can attend medical school. Céleste, 16, is a Parisian and has become a courier for the resistance. Philippe, 17, is a red-headed student from Normandy who wears a Boy Scout uniform and helps smuggle Jewish refugees across the border into Switzerland. Henni, 17, and Max, 21, are concentration-camp survivors from Germany and meet again in Les Lauzes. The school provides a home for Henni, before she and Max flee to Switzerland. Jules is the local 10-year-old goatherd who knows the mountains, town and its secrets better than anyone. He passes messages and creates diversions. French Officer Perdant makes Jules his spy and their relationship is quite comic, as he outsmarts Perdant.

Madame Desault is a Jew from Paris, who rescues the children from the French concentration camps and brings them by train to the village. Madame Créneau is the organizer of the network  and finds safe places for the refugees and smuggles children and others to Switzerland.  Pastor Autin preaches peace and practices non-violent resistance.

I always welcome a new WW II book, because I realize that many of the survivors will soon be gone. It is so refreshing to read their stories. Each story offers a different perspective about how ordinary adults and children from many different countries come to the aid of the Jews and make a difference.

Favorite quote:

“We will resist,” Céleste whispered to herself. “Without fear.” After the sermon, Céleste had felt calm. Here was someone who knew what to do. Even if the whole world had gone mad, there was one man who knew what was right and was determined to live it. She felt a sense of purpose. She felt that everyone felt the same way, although no one spoke of it again. They simply began to live it.  Pg. 154

Resources: Make sure you check out the Cast of Characters and a Pronunciation Guide at the beginning of the book. Read the Epilogue, because the author matches her characters with the real-life people who inspired her story. She includes photographs and detailed information about each person. There also is information on the school and guesthouses, the French Boy Scouts and concentration camps. She also includes a timeline and additional resources.

Margi Preus is the author of the Newbery Honor book Heart of of a Samurai and other books for young reachers that include West of the Moon, Shadow on the Mountain and The Bamboo Sword. Visit her at her website and on twitter @MagriPreus.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

The Brave Princess and Me by Kathy Kacer

The Brave Princess and Me

Kathy Kacer, Author

Juliana Kolesova, Illustrator

Magination Press, Historical Fiction, Sep. 10, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 8 and up

Themes: Princess Alice of Greece, Deaf, WW II, Jewish Girl, Nazis, Compassion, Bravery

Opening: There once was a princess who lived in Greece. Her full name was Victoria Alice Elizabeth Julia Marie, but she was called Princess Alice. When she was young her family discovered that she was deaf.

Book Synopsis:

In 1943, the Second World War is raging, and the Nazi’s have taken control of most of Europe — including Athens, where Princess Alice of Greece lives. Princess Alice is kind and accepting of different types of people. Something the Nazis are not. Born deaf, she knows what it is like to be discriminated against.

With the arrival of the Nazis, all the Jews living in Greece are in danger, including young Tilde Cohen and her mother. On the run, they must find a safe place to hide. When they arrive unannounced, on Princess Alice’s doorstep and beg her to hide them, the princess’s kindness is put to the test. Will she risk her own life to save theirs?

Why I like this book:

I love true stories about women who were heroes during the war, without even realizing it. They did what they knew was morally right in their hearts with little thought of the consequences. Princess Alice’s story is engaging and will encourage readers to wonder if they had the courage to risk their lives to save someone. The illustrations are stunning and perfectly match the mood of the story.

Princess Alice’s story is narrated by Tilde Cohen. The narration is quite wordy, but it fits the period of the story beautifully. Readers will want to know the details. Tilde and her mother are given a two-room apartment with a small kitchen. Every afternoon Princess Alice has tea with them and they talk about happy times in Greece before the Nazis invade. Through Tilde we learn that the princess can read lips in three different languages, but keeps it a secret. Everyday the princess leaves to help feed the poor and visit the sick.  When the stakes get high and two Nazi soldiers pound on the door and ask the princess if she’s hiding Jews, Princess Alice uses her deafness to trick the soldiers and make them think she’s not smart and can’t understand them.

Make sure you read the fascinating backmatter about Princess Alice’s life at the end of the book. She was the granddaughter of Queen Victoria, the mother of Prince Phillip (husband of Queen Elizabeth), grandmother to Prince Charles, and great grandmother of Princes William and Harry. The author includes photographs of Princess Alice — with additional surprises. There is also information about Tilde Cohen’s family.

Resources: Encourage children to interview their parents and grandparents and ask them about family history. Write or record the information. I remember my grandmother and great aunt writing me letters about growing up in the late 1800s and early 1900s, but I lost the letters. I know information, but it is the stories about their every day lives I wish I knew. Good family project.

Kathy Kacer is the author of numerous books that tell true stories of the Holocaust for young readers of all ages, including The Secret of Gabi’s Dress, The Magician of Auschwitz, and To Look a Nazi in the Eye. A former psychologist, Kathy has travelled the globe speaking to children and adults about the importance of keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive.

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 website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher.