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, the 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.