The Lit­tle Boy Star: An Alle­go­ry of the Holocaust

Rachel Haus­fater; Oliv­er Latyk, illus.
  • Review
By – December 16, 2011
Weird cor­re­la­tion: the old­er the sur­vivors get, the younger the read­ers tar­get­ed by pub­lish­ers of Holo­caust books. This trend is fright­en­ing, inap­pro­pri­ate, and unnec­es­sary; it now includes a ten­der alle­go­ry for ten­der age read­ers who do not get alle­go­ry (young­sters respond to the con­crete) or pol­i­tics of hate direct­ed at Jews. This pic­ture book intro­duces a sad lit­tle boy who is told he is a star; he sees the star has too many points” (from whose per­spec­tive?). All around him there are round-ups, includ­ing his par­ents. He becomes one of the lucky hid­den chil­dren who sur­vive the Holo­caust. He learns to live in the world again as a star that shines. The hon­est, depress­ing sto­ry is well told in few words in a well orga­nized flow of text, page, and pic­ture. The art is excel­lent. Human fig­ures bor­der on cut-outs or pup­pets (note Pinoc­chio noses) to dis­tance young read­ers from the awful his­to­ry that vic­tim­ized real peo­ple. Col­or is care­ful­ly used to strength­en the alle­go­ry and deliv­er mean­ing. This may be a gen­tle pic­ture book, but it is not a gen­tle sto­ry. Why bring such dev­as­tat­ing his­to­ry to chil­dren too young to under­stand world war and nation­al move­ments? Such pret­ty books lead to night­mares and fear. Are there not bet­ter top­ics to cre­ate a com­mon Jew­ish cul­ture at the pic­ture book lev­el? Rec­om­mend­ed for old­er read­ers who want to be impressed with how young you can go deliv­er­ing the truth before it can be handled.

Ellen G. Cole, a retired librar­i­an of the Levine Library of Tem­ple Isa­iah in Los Ange­les, is a past judge of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Awards and a past chair­per­son of that com­mit­tee. She is a co-author of the AJL guide, Excel­lence in Jew­ish Children’s Lit­er­a­ture. Ellen is the recip­i­ent of two major awards for con­tri­bu­tion to Juda­ic Librar­i­an­ship, the Fan­ny Gold­stein Mer­it Award from the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries and the Dorothy Schroed­er Award from the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. She is on the board of AJLSC.

Discussion Questions