Hon­ey Cake

Joan Bet­ty Stuch­n­er; Cyn­thia Nugent, illus.
  • Review
By – February 13, 2012
The large print and easy-to-read text of this ear­ly chap­ter book makes it a good choice to intro­duce the Holo­caust to younger read­ers. In age-appro­pri­ate lan­guage, with­out gory details, the author com­mu­ni­cates the sense of dan­ger and des­per­a­tion faced by these Dan­ish Jews. The almost ten-year-old nar­ra­tor, David, begins the sto­ry by telling us what life has been like since the Nazis invad­ed Den­mark three years before, right before Passover. He has a warm, lov­ing fam­i­ly: a father, who is a bak­er, a brave old­er sis­ter, Rachel, who is a uni­ver­si­ty stu­dent, and a sup­port­ive, kind moth­er. The author does a good job of devel­op­ing the char­ac­ters, and show­ing their brav­ery and the brav­ery of their non-Jew­ish friends. David smug­gles a map in a box of éclairs to help Rachel with her work as a resis­tance couri­er around Copen­hagen. As her moth­er pre­pares to make a hon­ey cake to wel­come in the new year, Rachel tells her that A sweet year would be a year with­out Nazis.” Stuch­n­er describes the rationing, how the Ger­mans send most of the good Dan­ish food to Ger­many, and how, as their free­doms and com­forts are tak­en away from them and Hitler’s net clos­es in, all Danes dreamed of the secret taste of free­dom.” The sto­ry ends with their neigh­bors smug­gling them to Swe­den in Sep­tem­ber 1943 to escape Hitler’s orders to send all Dan­ish Jews to con­cen­tra­tion camps. In the After­words, the author describes the his­tor­i­cal events upon which the fic­tion­al sto­ry is based, and states that the major­i­ty of Dan­ish Jews were saved by their non-Jew­ish neigh­bors, like the Jensens of the sto­ry. Clever pen and ink, rich­ly drawn illus­tra­tions will hold the atten­tion of young read­ers in grades 3 – 5. The hon­ey cake of the title sym­bol­izes the nor­mal­cy of cel­e­brat­ing the Jew­ish hol­i­days to which the fam­i­ly wish­es they could return, and the author has includ­ed Mama’s hon­ey cake recipe for a Sweet New Year,” with care­ful instruc­tions to have an adult help with the oven and prepa­ra­tions. Ages 8 – 11.
Andrea David­son is the librar­i­an of The Tem­ple-Tifer­eth Israel in Beach­wood, Ohio. She holds an M.L.S. from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan and is a for­mer mem­ber of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Awards Com­mit­tee. She enjoys try­ing out the books she reviews on the kids at the Tem­ple and on her grandchildren.

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