Fani­a’s Heart

Anne Renaud; Richard Rud­nic­ki, illus.
  • Review
By – February 7, 2018

Fani­a’s Heart by Anne Renaud; Richard Rud­nic­ki, illus. | Jew­ish Book Coun­cil

Sorale, rifling through her mother’s dress­er draw­er one day, dis­cov­ers a tiny heart-shaped book. That leads to a sad recount­ing of the ori­gins of the mys­te­ri­ous item. The ten-year-old girl’s moth­er, Fania, sur­vived the unspeak­able hor­rors of a forced labor camp in Auschwitz dur­ing World War II. The young women liv­ing and work­ing with Fania made her the book, which con­tained pages of birth­day wish­es, to raise her spir­its. Fania’s Heart tells the sto­ry of these women and their demean­ing exis­tence under the Nazis. The first-per­son nar­ra­tive and dia­logue between moth­er and daugh­ter make the scary and awful sub­ject mat­ter more relat­able, but no less hor­ri­ble to read about. Sorale asks why her moth­er was in prison. The answer: We were in Auschwitz just because we were Jewish.”

The somber-hued illus­tra­tions rein­force the seri­ous sub­ject mat­ter. The end of the book includes an author’s note, pho­tographs of the real Sorale and Fania, as well as the heart-shaped birth­day card which is on dis­play at the Mon­tre­al Holo­caust Muse­um. Also includ­ed is a chronol­o­gy of the book’s char­ac­ters and the world events they expe­ri­enced. The book’s con­tent is quite mature for the ele­men­tary school set. Read­ers will require a good atten­tion span to take in the dense type, which packs in events and emo­tions on every page. It is, there­fore, appro­pri­ate for late ele­men­tary through ear­ly mid­dle school-aged chil­dren. The inspir­ing sto­ry, which takes place in one of the most demean­ing of set­tings, shows that even the pow­er­less can pro­vide hope and warmth to one other.

Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 9 to 12.

Discussion Questions