History and legend, brought to life
“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