Ben­no and the Night of Bro­ken Glass

Meg Wiv­iott; Josée Bisail­lon, illus.

  • Review
By – September 9, 2011

Kristall­nacht was the open­ing act for the Nazi’s Final Solu­tion.” On the night of Novem­ber 9 – 10, 1938, Nazis ram­paged in a nation­wide pogrom against Jews and Jew­ish insti­tu­tions through­out Ger­many. Syn­a­gogues were burned, Jew­ish stores loot­ed, and Jews beat­en and arrest­ed. Pre­sent­ing infor­ma­tion about this event to young read­ers is prob­lem­at­ic: hatred, vio­lence, and destruc­tion may not be appro­pri­ate. Meg Wiv­iott has cre­at­ed a well-craft­ed, non-threat­en­ing solu­tion — a per­son­able cat named Ben­no. Ben­no lives in Berlin, in the Mitte neigh­bor­hood sur­round­ing the majes­tic Neue Syn­a­gogue on Oranien­burg­er Strasse where Jew­ish and non-Jew­ish fam­i­lies live togeth­er. He is a wel­come guest wher­ev­er he goes but his rou­tine is dis­rupt­ed with the events of Kristall­nacht. When it is over, the lives of his Jew­ish friends are for­ev­er altered and his lit­tle com­mu­ni­ty dis­rupt­ed: Rosen­strasse was still a busy street, but the peo­ple were no longer friend­ly.” Wiv­iott pro­vides read­ers with a sense of that night through Benno’s obser­va­tions while Bisaillon’s vibrant and dra­mat­ic illus­tra­tions will cap­ti­vate read­ers. An after­word pro­vides his­tor­i­cal back­ground and sug­ges­tions for fur­ther read­ing. For ages 8 – 11.

Nor­man H. Finkel­stein, the author of eigh­teen non­fic­tion books, has won the Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award twice and the Gold­en Kit Hon­or Award for non­fic­tion. He lives in Fram­ing­ham, Massachusetts.

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