Sunday, May 12, 2013

Pieces of the Past: The Holocaust Diary of Rose Rabinowitz - Carol Matas

Title: Pieces of the Past: The Holocaust Diary of Rose Rabinowitz
Author: Carol Matas
Publisher: Scholastic, 2013 (Hardcover)
Length: 157 pages
Genre: Children's Historical Fiction
Started: May 10, 2013
Finished: May 11, 2013


A young Jewish girl recounts her experiences during a horrific time in recent history.

As Rose begins her diary, she is in her third home since coming to Winnipeg. Traumatized by her experiences in the Holocaust, she struggles to connect with others, and above all, to trust again.

When her new guardian, Saul, tries to get Rose to deal with what happened to her during the war, she begins writing in her diary about how she survived the murder of the Jews in Poland by going into hiding.

Memories of herself and her mother being taken in by those willing to risk sheltering Jews, moving from place to place, being constantly on the run to escape capture, begin to flood her diary pages. Recalling those harrowing days, including when they stumbled on a resistance cell deep in the forest and lived underground in filthy conditions, begins to take its toll on Rose.

As she delves deeper into her past, she is haunted by the most terrifying memory of all. Will she find the courage to bear witness to her mother's ultimate sacrifice?

I love the Dear Canada books, as well as the I Am Canada books (geared towards boys). As an educator, they're a wonderful way to introduce Canadian history to youth in approachable ways, and as a reader I  appreciate that the books are written by Canadian authors. The various historical events chosen for these books are relevant and important: child labour in the 1800s, the Filles du Roi in the 1600s, loyalists during the War of 1812, various immigrant experiences throughout the years, escaped slaves arriving to Canada via the Underground Railroad, Irish immigrants caught in typhus outbreaks in the 1840s, Japanese internment during the 1940s, and of course ones relating to the Holocaust like this installment. I have quite a collection of my own, but there are always new ones coming out that I pick up from the library, and this was the newest one.

As all the books begin, we meet a thirteen year-old girl; this one named Rose (Rozia), a Jewish war orphan among the thousand or so allowed into Canada in 1948 from European orphanages and displaced persons camps. She's on her third foster home since her arrival to Winnipeg (another commentary on the need for qualified, trained foster parents throughout history, especially for traumatized children), and her new guardians try to help her by giving her a diary to write her experiences in. As she recalls memories from her entry to the Warsaw ghetto at age four to being the last remaining member of her family by age nine, readers become immersed in a variety of Holocaust experiences from ghetto life, concentration camps, going into hiding, joining the resistance and living in the forests, to survivor guilt and returning to 'normal' life.

These books are very well researched (there's a list of credits/sources at the back of each book), so they do a nice job of filling in the gaps that students will get from our very condensed history curriculum, especially on topics that kids are usually drawn to but aren't discussed in depth in school.

The quality of these books vary depending on the author and the subject matter, but the majority are excellent and very well written. I urge you to go to your library or bookstore and pick up one from either series for your child (or yourself, I enjoy reading these as much as the kids).

Thoughts on the cover:
The publisher always does a good job of finding portrait images from the appropriate time period that match the character description, I love reading the credits and finding out where the portrait came from. And also what colour template they'll use for each new book, I'm sure they have one in every single shade by now.

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