Jella Lepman, a Jewish woman, escaped from Germany to England during WWII. When the war ended, the American Army asked her to return to Germany to help determine what kind of aid would be most helpful to the children. Of course, Jella noticed many needs, including housing, clothing, and food; she also saw the children’s yearning for books, and she determined to find a way to fill that need. She sent letters to publishers in 20 countries, asking for donations, and was thrilled when books started to arrive. She also translated “Ferdinand the Bull,” a story about a bull who loved flowers and hated to fight, into German, and arranged for inexpensive copies to be printed, so the children could have their own books to keep. In 1949, she founded the International Youth Library in Munich. Author Sydelle Pearl presents a biography of a remarkable woman whose name most Americans probably don’t know. Lepman’s determination to bring books to children should ensure that she is beloved by librarians and book lovers all over. Lepman’s Jewish identity is mentioned only once, in the context of her flight from Germany, and is neither mentioned again, nor seems to inform her quest to bring books to children. Despite the illustrated format, this story is more likely to appeal to older children, who will more readily understand the difficulties and struggles of the protagonist. Danlyn Iantorno’s illustrations hint at the troubles in Nazi-controlled Germany, as well as the troubles in Germany after the war. The faces, however, all seem to share the same expression. Nonetheless, this biography will introduce a remarkable woman to all who read it. Ages 8 – 11.
Marci Lavine Bloch earned her MLS from the University of Maryland, a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and an MA in English Literature from Fordham University. She has worked in synagogue and day school libraries and is currently finishing her term on the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee.