Doing something because it is the right thing to do takes on new significance in this spirited, moving collection of thumbnail biographies of righteous gentiles, which will keep readers turning pages to the end. Toby Belfer, peppy, popular picture book heroine, appears in this older readers’ chapter book, her bounce not weighed by the heaviness of the Holocaust, but drawn to the positive stories of the few who helped the Jews. All 26 people here are carefully chosen and interesting: many of their lives have been the topic of movies, plays and books. Some names are familiar, some are newly discovered. The grouping of these individuals is clever; categories include “Germans Who Defied Orders” “Royal and Brave Clergy” and “Heroic Diplomats.” The book’s frame — a fifth grade school trip from Louisiana to Israel’s Yad Vashem Memorial and Museum— is a reach (the cost, the grade). Not to worry, once there, Toby’s ebullient spirit channels into energy; she and her friend write down names and stories to share back home. Their reports inspire a trip to the Six Million Paper Clip Museum in Tennessee, a tremendous, worthy project, although it can be debated whether those who created it are bona fide Righteous Gentiles, as the author states. However, this does not detract from the 26 courageous people who share with the Jews the true designation of heroes and martyrs. The book is well written with clear explanations of new terms. The tense, dramatic individual adventures pit moral goodness against the tragedy of the Holocaust. An excellent, healing book for children ages 9 to 12.
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.