Page 110 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 43

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
the world in living with tragedy.(Figure 2) It took a new
generation, once removed from the events themselves, or recol­
lecting childhood, to be able to deal with memory in a way that
children, particularly American children, could comprehend. At
the same time, changes have taken place in the kinds of stories
that are written for children in more recent years. It is increas­
ingly acceptable, indeed, in vogue, to detail life problems,
anxieties, and “difficult” subjects in books for young people. A
picture book about Nuclear Holocaust, for example, would have
been unthinkable twenty years ago. Three have been published
during the past year. Most juvenile books written about Nazi
Germany, World War II, and the annihilation of Jews are pub­
lished by non-Jewish presses. Almost all major children’s publish­
ers have at least one Holocaust title. Some of the finest writing for
children is represented in this category. In detailing inhumanity,
it is possible to see and comprehend human nobility, ingenuity
and love. In preparing for this paper, I received a new story of
the Warsaw Ghetto, translated from Hebrew,
The Island on Bird
Street.
A quote from the introduction sets the stage for a
powerful, poignant story.
Which brings us to our own book,
The Island on Bird Street.
The empty neighborhood you’ll read about here is the
ghetto. . . Alex, the hero of my story, hides in a ruined
house that was bombed out at the beginning of the war, al­
though all the other houses around it are untouched and
full of possessions. The house is really not very different
from a desert island. And Alex has to wait in it until his fa­
ther comes. But his father does not come back right away
and Alex begins to wonder if he ever will. So he must sur­
vive by himself for many months, taking what he needs
from the other houses the way Robinson Crusoe took what
he needed from the wrecks of other ships that were washed
up on the beach. . . He even sees the children who go to
school every morning — and yet, although they seem so
near, they are as far away from him as were the nearest in­
habited lands from Robinson Crusoe’s island. Alex has no
man Friday either; he has only a little white mouse. And,
yes, one more thing: Alex has hope. Because he is waiting
for his father. (Orlev, 1983, p. x)
Such stories as
The upstairs room, When Hitler stole pink rabbit,