Liesl’s Ocean Rescue

Liesl's Ocean 51Go9YPulaL__SX348_BO1,204,203,200_Liesl’s Ocean Rescue

Barbara Krasner, Author

Avi Katz, Illustrations

Gihon River Press, Nonfiction, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 6-9

Themes: Liesl Joseph, Jewish children and families, Refugees, MS St. Louis, Seeking Asylum, Cuba, America

Opening: “What fun we had last night,” Josef Joseph, said. “It was the best birthday yet.” “You’re very old now, Father, “Liesl said. “You’re 56!” Mother placed breakfast plates in front of them.

Synopsis: Ten-year-old Liesl and her family were enjoying breakfast when two uniformed men wearing Nazi swastika armbands burst into their home and arrested her father. That 1938 night in Rheydt, Jewish businesses were destroyed and synagogues were burned. It was called the “Night of the Broken Glass.” Liesl’s father was eventually released from jail.  Her family along with 1,000 Jewish refugees, fled Germany in May 1939, aboard the MS St. Louis ocean liner, for temporary asylum in Havana, Cuba and later in America. But when they approached the island that looked like a paradise to Liesl, the ship wasn’t permitted to dock. They were stranded for weeks sailing back and forth between Cuba and the United States not knowing if they’d be sent back to Germany.

Why I like this book:

Barbara Krasner has written a compelling story based on the true experiences of Liesl Joseph, a courageous and endearing 10-year-old, who is heroic in her own way. Despite her own fear, she does her best to keep up the spirits of the children aboard the ship. She plays games and reassures them things will turn out okay. Her father, a lawyer, is busy negotiating arrangements with the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Paris, for safe passage to other European countries.

I am drawn to Holocaust stories, especially those involving children. Liesl’s story is one I had a hard time understanding. Why would the United States deny these refugees a home away from the tyranny of Hitler? Since this is a story about a child’s experience, that question is not addressed. However the story delivers a powerful message for older children about remaining brave in the midst of fear and uncertainty.

Liesl’s Ocean Rescue is an excellent addition to any school’s Holocaust collection. Although this is a picture book, I believe it would also serve well as a chapter book for older children. My only negative comment is that I felt the story ended abruptly.

Avi Katz’s black and white illustrations are expressive and capture emotions ranging from the fear during the German raids to the anxious moments of the refugees aboard the ship.

Resources: Make sure you read the Author’s Note at the end of the book to learn more about Liesl’s journey and fate. The author interviews Liesl Joseph Loeb at her home. Krasner also provides information on other resources to use with this story. There is a Teacher’s Guide at Gihon River Press.  Visit Krasner at her website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

The Night Dad Went to Jail by Melissa Higgins

Dad in Jail9781479521425_p0_v1_s260x420The Night Dad Went to Jail:  What to Expect When Someone you Love Goes to Jail

Melissa Higgins, author

Wednesday Kirwan, illustrator

Picture Window Books, Fiction, 2012

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes:   Children of Prisoners, Prisons, Separation, Family Relationships

Opening:   This is one of my before drawings.  Before means “before my dad went to jail.”  Dad and I didn’t catch anything, but we had fun anyway.

Synopsis:  Family life is disrupted one night for Bailey and his siblings when police officers arrive at their dad’s apartment. They arrest their dad, put him in handcuffs, put him a police car, and take him to jail.  An officer remains behind until their mother arrives.  Naturally, Bailey is upset, scared and wants to know “why and what happened?”  He even asks if it is his fault.  His mother explains that their father made a bad choice, broke a law and would be in jail.  Attending school the next day and dealing with the teasing from the other kids angers and embarrasses Bailey.  On their first visit with their dad, a glass window separates them and they talk to him by phone.  When he’s transferred to a prison, they walk through a metal detector, can hug and spend time with their dad.  Their dad will be in jail for six years,  so Bailey and his siblings join a support group and find ways keep in touch by writing letters and drawing pictures.

Why I like this book:  I’ve been looking for a book like this for a while.  There are roughly two million children in the country who have a mom or a dad in prison for a variety of reasons.  Melissa Higgins has written a sensitive and compassionate book for children facing such a difficult separation.  All of the characters in the book are animals, which makes the story easy to read to a child.  Although the children have done nothing wrong and may not even understand  what has happened, they feel responsible.  They are teased at school and associated with a crime they haven’t committed.   Wednesday Kirwan’s illustrations are especially warm, caring and show the stages of feelings the children work though. Throughout the books she offers facts at the bottom, like “One in every 43 kids in the United States has had a mom or dad in prison.”  This is an excellent book for parents, teachers and counselors.

Resources:  The author has included a glossary of terms to use with children.  She suggests some helpful internet sites and resources. With so many children with parents incarcerated, Sesame Street has created a video for children and a tool kit for parents, caregivers and therapists.  There is also the National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Healing Days: A Guide for Kids Who Have Experienced Trauma

Healing Days9781433812934_p0_v1_s260x420Healing Days: A Guide for Kids Who Have Experienced Trauma

Susan Farber Straus, Ph.D., Author

Maria Bogade, Illustrator

Magination Press., Fiction, May 18, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 5 -11

Themes: Children facing trauma and tragedy, PTSD, Anxiety, Fear, Anger, Healing

Opening“Something bad happened to me.  I did not want anyone to know.  I was scared.  I was sad.  I was angry.  I was embarrassed.  I was hurt and confused.  I tried to forget.  I tried to sleep and not wake up.” 

Synopsis:  A child has had something scary happen.  We follow the child through feelings of hurt, confusion, anger and fear that the bad thing might happen again.  The child has bad dreams and is afraid of the dark.  At school there are run-ins with the teachers.  Friends notice the child isn’t fun to play with.  The child is lonely.  Finally an aunt notices differences and takes the child to talk with a therapist who helps the child share the secret.  Only then can intervention and healing begin for the child.

Why I like this book:  I am thrilled to find Susan Farber Straus’ very sensitive and comforting book due to its relevance in our world today.   Although the story is told from the viewpoint of one child, each page features pictures of a diverse group of children of all ages acting out the narrative.  This book is a fabulous tool for parents, guidance counselors and therapists to read with a child when they may suspect a trauma.  And that trauma could range from abuse, an accident, school and home violence, bullying, the sudden death of a parent or sibling to natural disasters like tornadoes, hurricanes and floods that are prevalent today in the world.  The book also helps children know they aren’t alone and that they can find ways to heal.  Maria Bogade’s illustrations are warm, and comforting, and beautifully show the emotion of the children.

Resources:  The book alone is a resource as the author is a clinical psychologist.  The American Psychological Association also has a list of helpful resources available online.  Also be sure to read the Note to Readers at the beginning of the book and check out the jacket flaps on the front and back pages.

Note:  I will be attending the Northern Ohio SCBWI conference this weekend, so I won’t be able to respond to your comments or posts until I return.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

International Dot Day – Sept. 15, 2012

More than 620,000 children worldwide have signed up to celebrate International Dot Day in their classrooms around September 15.  And, I’m sure that number will grow as the day approaches.  In the U.S., kids in all 50 states have signed up.  It’s inspiring that so many children (and grown-up kids) will be using their imaginations to draw special dot creations during this global event.  And, this is a perfect time to issue a challenge to all the KidLit bloggers to make and publish a dot on their websites Sept. 15-ish.

Peter H. Reynolds, author and illustrator,  published The Dot, on Sept. 15, 2003.  The book is about a girl who doesn’t think she can draw.  The idea for International Dot Day grew out of this powerful story and has become an annual event, with more kids participating each year.  This is a wonderful opportunity to help kids open their eyes to the world of creativity and self-worth,” says Terry Shay,  Dot Day Ambassador.  Shay is a teacher who is passionate about the event and the enthusiastic educators who make this event happen in their schools.

If you are a teacher and want to participate, there is still time to sign up your  students at  http://fablevisionlearning.com/dotday/signup.html.  If you are a student  and want to participate, talk with your teacher and parent.

Visit http://fablevisionlearning.com/dotday/ to learn more about International Dot Day, activity suggestions, resources, a global map showing participants and a peek at the dots being created by celebrities.  There also is a Facebook page devoted to International Dot Day with frequent updates.