A neighborhood cat observes the changes in German and Jewish families in its town during the period leading up to Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass that becomes the true beginning of the Holocaust. This cats-eye view introduces the Holocaust to children in a gentle way that can open discussion of this period.
From School Library Journal
Gr 2–5—Benno the cat compares the difference in life on Rosenstrasse in Berlin, before and after Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass). He notices the changes in behavior between Christian and Jew, the harsh behavior of the Nazis, and the damage to Jewish properties and removal of Jews from the area. Narrated by Susie Berneis, the book opens and closes with piano music. Liberal use of sound effects such as crackling fire, city traffic, and crashing glass add to the intensity and forward motion of the book. A double-edged sword, the sounds don't always align with the text (for example, at one point listeners hear fire crackling in the background instead of "sounds of people above") and are conspicuously missing when there is no background sound. Berneis's careful, slow reading pace reflects Benno's observing of his world as it changes. She quickens her pace and pitch slightly as the drama of the attack on Jews occurs, returning to an eerie calm of the new normal life after. VERDICT This work provides a gentle overview and entry to discuss the start of the Holocaust with children.—Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
It is not easy to tell young kids the horrifying truth about the Holocaust, but this picture book is a good place to start. Using the fictionalized viewpoint of a cat, Benno, it shows what happened to families in one Berlin community. Benno feels welcome in many homes and stores, and he likes following a Jewish girl, Sophie, and her Christian friend to school everyday. Then everything changes, and the neighborhood is no longer friendly. Benno cowers as terrifying men in brown shirts light bonfires, and then there is a night “like no other,” during which Benno hears screams and shattering glass, and he watches apartments being ravaged and the synagogue burn. The next day, life continues for some, but Benno never sees others again, including Sophie and her family. The unframed, double-page spreads, created with a mix of collage, drawings, and digital montage, show the warm neighborhood transformed as red flames take over, books fly, and soldiers march in black boots with razor-edged soles. A brief afterword and bibliography add more information and historical context. Grades 2-5. --Hazel Rochman --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.