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.
The Secret of the Village Fool
February 26, 2013
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