Friday, 16 September 2016

 Not a simple story

Sometime in the past, I said that reading children's literature wakes an adult's mind up in a refreshing and thoughtful way. This is the case for "Erika's Story", a biography of a woman who escaped the Holocaust when she was a baby – her mother, in a brave moment, decided to throw her out of the train which took her and tens of hundreds other Jewish people to a concentration camp. The baby was rescued by a family who raised her as their own daughter. Tens of years later, Erika told her story to Ruth Vander Zee, an american author and teacher she met by chance in 1995. 

Erika is not her real name. Ruth Vander Zee changed it and transcribed the woman's story into this concise little book. Because of its format, the brief text and the simplicity of the language, the book is addressed to children aged 8 and above. However, the story can also be easily read by both children in their early teens and adults as it is an effective wake-up call for the racist and the anti-Semitic incidents that reappear in present days with alarming frequency and severity.

The photorealistic illustration of the book by Roberto Innocenti supplements the text with fine details that lead to questions and discussion.  It also creates a suggestive atmosphere that involves the children emotionally in the narrative which, despite the gloomy subject, exudes hope. "Erika's Story" could be read after "On n'a rien vu venir"  so as to demonstrate not only the similarity and the great relevance of the past with the present, but also the impact of a decision. History involves children and they should definitely learn and talk about it. 

Notes: The book has been wonderfully translated in Greek by author and teacher Marisa DeCastro and published by Kaleidoscope Publications (2015). 

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