The Cat With the Yel­low Star: Com­ing of Age in Terezin

Susan Gold­man Rubin; Ela Weissberger
  • Review
By – May 14, 2012

Susan Gold­man Rubin’s work does much to broad­en young read­ers’ under­stand­ing of the Holo­caust. Again she suc­ceeds with this sen­si­tive and pas­sion­ate non-fic­tion book on a lit­tle known Holo­caust era fig­ure. While Rubin was research­ing for her award-win­ning book, Fire­flies in the Dark: The Sto­ry of Friedl Dick­er-Bran­deis and the Chil­dren of Terezin, she attend­ed a per­for­mance of Brundibar, the children’s opera staged at Terezin. In the ele­va­tor, she rec­og­nized Ela Weiss­berg­er as a woman who as a child had played the cat in the Terezin pro­duc­tion. From that chance meet­ing, after years of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion, this book evolved. 

Using pho­tographs, along with full­col­or draw­ings by the chil­dren of Terezin, Rubin presents a poignant, mat­ter-of-fact account of what it was like for Ela to be a Jew­ish child liv­ing with fear, yet able to escape for hours at a time through the pow­er of friend­ship, music, art and learn­ing. Rubin, who also wrote The Chil­dren of Terezin (2000) for old­er read­ers, nev­er gloss­es over the dai­ly threat of trans­ports and the fact that some of the pris­on­ers did not sur­vive. But she also doc­u­ments that, even in that trau­mat­ic time, devot­ed adults and deter­mined chil­dren could forge close bonds, using art and music to help them endure and even grow. Includes numer­ous inter­views with Weiss­berg­er and oth­ers, detailed source notes, print and non-print resources, and an index. Ages 9 – 12

Rita Berman Frisch­er was direc­tor of Sinai Tem­ple Blu­men­thal Library for twen­ty years. She has served as a judge for chil­dren’s books awards, writ­ten chap­ters on chil­dren’s book for var­i­ous bib­li­o­graph­ic works and is a fre­quent review­er for Jew­ish peri­od­i­cals and newspapers.

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