The Tat­tered Prayer Book

Ellen Bari; Avi Katz, illus.
  • Review
By – September 16, 2013

When Ruthie vis­its her grand­moth­er, she dis­cov­ers a par­tial­ly burned prayer book in a box her grand­moth­er has saved from her life in Ger­many before she came to Amer­i­ca. Ruthie learns for the first time that her father had been born in Ger­many, as well. She asks him to tell her more about his past but he is reluc­tant to share painful mem­o­ries. How­ev­er, when she urges him, he tells her his story.

He tells of a time when the Nazis spread hate and his friends would no longer play with him. Ruthie learns about non-Jew­ish chil­dren taunt­ing Jews, Jew­ish busi­ness­es being forced to close, Kristall­nacht, arrests, escapes, and obtain­ing visas to leave for America.

The prayer book Ruthie found, says her father, had been retrieved from the ash­es of a syn­a­gogue burned down by the Nazis. It sym­bol­izes to him his con­nec­tion with his past and it evokes mem­o­ries, both good and bad, of his for­mer life. He had trea­sured it once but lat­er put it away as he tried to for­get and move on.

Excel­lent sepia-toned draw­ings of life in the Ger­many of the era accom­pa­ny the text and the sto­ry is pow­er­ful­ly and sen­si­tive­ly told. This is a good intro­duc­tion to the Holo­caust for ages 8 and up.

Marge Kaplan is a retired Eng­lish as a Sec­ond Lan­guage teacher. She is a con­sul­tant for the children’s lit­er­a­ture group for the Roseville, MN school sys­tem and is a sto­ry­teller of Jew­ish tales.

Discussion Questions