The Secret of the Vil­lage Fool

Rebec­ca Upjohn; Renne Benoit, illus.
  • Review
February 26, 2013

When World War II comes to the sleepy lit­tle town in Poland where broth­ers Milek and Munio live with their fam­i­ly, every­thing instant­ly changes for them. Sud­denly their easy exis­tence is no longer; they are Jew­ish, and Nazi sol­diers are round­ing up all the Jews they can find. Help comes from a most unex­pect­ed per­son: Anton, the gen­tle and slight­ly odd man who most of the neigh­bor­hood con­sid­ers the town fool, but whom the boys’ moth­er has always treat­ed with respect and kind­ness. Anton’s gen­tle­ness proves to be only one of his qual­i­ties — courage and stead­fast­ness are two oth­ers — and he is able to keep the whole fam­i­ly (plus two oth­er girls) safe in a prim­i­tive, cramped under­ground hid­ing place until the sol­diers leave Poland. The book is based on true events, and the epi­logue, com­plete with pho­tos, fills the read­er in on what has hap­pened to all those involved. The sto­ry is a tear­jerk­er in all the right ways — nei­ther overt­ly didac­tic nor over­ly sen­ti­men­tal. It, nev­er­the­less, both teach­es his­to­ry and illus­trates human com­pas­sion in unex­pect­ed places with its mov­ing, straight­forward nar­ra­tive. The illus­tra­tions are equal­ly effec­tive; in mut­ed hues, they reflect per­fect­ly the char­ac­ters’ fear and the tedi­um of their long ordeal. This is a great book for elemen­tary school age chil­dren who are learn­ing about the Holo­caust and is sure to pro­voke much dis­cus­sion. High­ly rec­om­mend­ed for ages 8 and up.

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