As an observant Jew, I will observe Yom Kippur, which begins today at sundown. The Days of Awe, which is a ten day period that begins with Rosh Hashanah and ends with Yom Kippur, is a time for introspection, where Jews think about the year that has passed, make amends for sins they’ve committed, and to find ways to be a better person in the year to come. Like many other Jews, I will be attending services with family tomorrow night and for most of the day on Saturday.
When I lived in Manhattan I had the pleasure and privilege of being a member of B’nai Jeshurun, or BJ, an egalitarian synagogue located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. One of the many things I loved about BJ was the tradition of inviting a Holocaust survivor to speak to the congregation after the Torah service on Yom Kippur morning. For years, I remember listening to first person accounts of the atrocities that had fallen upon congregants of the synagogue when they were children living in Europe. While the descriptions of their experiences always made me sick to my stomach, there overall message was always one of hope since they were, after all, addressing us in person.
My husband and I are no longer members of B’nai Jeshurun since we don’t live in New York. While we’ve talked about bringing our daughter to high holiday services there when she gets older, that’s many years off. Therefore, since the synagogue I attend on Yom Kippur does not bring in a Holocaust survivor to address the congregation I make sure to do something that pays tribute to the memory of those who perished during the Holocaust every year just prior to Yom Kippur.
This year, a picture book has crossed my desk that allows me to pay tribute to those who lived during the Holocaust. Marisabina Russo’s new book I Will Come Back for You: A Family in Hiding During World War II is the story of a Jewish family of four who lived in Rome together until the father was ordered to move to a small village in the mountains. While the mother and children were allowed to visit the father on weekends. While the father was allowed to come and go from the inn where he was detained as he pleased, he had to be there for roll call each morning. Once news spread that the men were going to be rounded up and taken to a concentration camp in Germany, the children’s father decided to run away and hide. He promised his daughter that he’d return when the war was over. After his disappearance, the children’s mother was questioned about her husband’s disappearance. She was threatened with being taken away too, but due to the cleverness of some quick-thinking friends, the mother was not taken away by the police, but she, too, had to go into hiding.
That’s all I’ll say about the plot of the book. I don’t want to give away anymore of the story since this book keeps readers on the edge of their seats. As I read it, I wanted to know what was going to happen to the mother, the father, and to the children who were left with virtual strangers after both of their parents went into hiding. Russo captivates readers with authentic dialogue that moves the story forward, rich descriptions, and detailed illustrations. Hence, this book can be used as a mentor text in an elementary writing workshop to teach students how to write in a way that will make readers want to devour the story. In addition to being a useful mentor text for writing, it’s a story that teaches about the Holocaust by teaching kids about what it means to have courage in a time of despair and about the kindness of strangers.
Finally, I’ve saved the best nugget of information for last. I Will Come Back for You: A Family in Hiding During World War II is a true story from Russo’s own family. The book contains a detailed afterword where Russo shares the true events and the real people that shaped this book. In addition, the book’s end pages contain photographs of a few of the book’s characters before and after the war.
Thank you to Schwartz & Wade Books for agreeing to sponsor a giveaway of one copy of I Will Come Back for You: A Family in Hiding During World War II.
To win a copy of the book please leave a comment about this post, in the comments section of this post by Saturday, October 15th, 2011 at 11:59 p.m. EST. A random drawing will take place on Sunday, October 16th and the winner’s name will be announced in a blog post later that day.
Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address and have my contact at Schwartz & Wade send the book out to you. Please note: Your e-mail address will not be published online.
Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.