His­tory and leg­end, brought to life

The Jewish Chronicle - - ARTS & BOOKS - AN­GELA KIVERSTEIN

“You think you know about the Holo­caust. Think again,” we are told on the cover of Emil and Karl, a novel by Yankev Glat­shteyn (Scholas­tic, £5.99). Emil is Jewish, Karl is the son of a non-Jewish so­cial­ist and they live in Nazioc­cu­pied Vi­enna. They are nine years old, they go to school to­gether — and lose their moth­ers to the stormtroop­ers to­gether.

Briefly they wan­der through the town, wit­ness­ing and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the degra­da­tion of the Jews, such as hav­ing to scrub the paving stones with their bare hands. They do not know what the fu­ture holds for them. Nor, in­deed, did their au­thor, for this book was writ­ten in 1940, in Yid­dish, af­ter Glat­shteyn (who had em­i­grated) re­turned on a visit and was shocked by the changes that had over­taken his coun­try. This flaw­lessly mod­ern­sound­ing trans­la­tion is by Jef­frey Shan­dler. Chil­dren will have no dif­fi­culty in re­lat­ing to timid Emil and fear­less Karl. Their strug­gles un­fold with­out melo­drama or sen­ti­men­tal­ity; back­ground events are ex­plained with­out wood­en­ness and his­tory is brought to life through the small­est do­mes­tic de­tails. Suit­able for age 11 up­wards.

If you are look­ing for a keep­sake book to mark a spe­cial oc­ca­sion, or to kin­dle a love of art and sto­ry­telling in a small child, Bare­foot Books is a name to note. The Bare­foot Book of An­i­mal Tales is a col­lec­tion of tra­di­tional an­i­mal sto­ries from around the world, re­told by Naomi Adler with a rhythm and a struc­ture ideal for read­ing aloud. Some tales are well­known, oth­ers unfamiliar. Out­stand­ingly de­tailed and richly coloured il­lus­tra­tions by Amanda Hall will be pored over for hours. Two CDs are in­cluded too, and all for £9.99.

Pre-school­ers will adore hear­ing the sto­ries, while chil­dren of all ages will find the leg­ends from around the world fas­ci­nat­ing.

Bare­foot also pub­lishes high­qual­ity short pic­ture books ideal for shar­ing from birth or as first easy read­ers. Among them is Carolyn Cur­tis’s I Took TheMoon­foraWalk (£5.99), which uses rhyme, rhythm and re­frain to cre­ate the per­fect read-aloud bed­time story ex­pe­ri­ence. Alison Jay’s vivid il­lus­tra­tions have a del­i­cate, crackle-glazed charm. At the end of the book, there is an in­for­ma­tive sec­tion on the phases of the moon, which will ex­tend the ap­peal of this book into the up­per pri­mary years.

High­lights for fam­i­lies dur­ing Jewish Book Week (starts Fe­bru­ary 24) will in­clude Michael Rosen’s “mix of po­etry, song, story, joke, anec­dote and fun with words” (March 4); Andy Stan­ton, cre­ator of the zany and hi­lar­i­ous new Mr Gum se­ries for ages six to 11 (Fe­bru­ary 25); Ju­dith Kerr, au­thor of When Hitler Stole Pink Rab­bit and the Mog the cat books (March 4); Michael Mor­purgo, with a tale about a Jewish vi­o­lin­ist (March 4); and a Purim pup­pet show (March 4). Jewish Book Week takes place at the Royal Na­tional Ho­tel, Lon­don WC1. Tick­ets: 0870 060 1798.

Child r e n w i l l h a v e no diff i c u l t y re­lat­ing to timid

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