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Middle-school librarians Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan prove that two heads are better than one when it comes to discussing YA and children's books

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Monday, December 3, 2012 10:44 am
Beyond Courage by Doreen Rappaport
Posted by: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan

Lynn:  Rappaport’s Introduction to Beyond Courage:  The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust (Candlewick 2012) echoes what so many of us, Jewish or not, have thought or felt.

“Even as a Jew growing up in a Jewish household I had only ever heard that “Jews went like lambs to the slaughter during the war.”

I remember vividly as a child wondering about this especially as I had a hard time understanding how anyone could get individuals as stubborn as my family to do anything they didn’t want to do!  It was a puzzle to me and, I realize now, a sort of wound.  But, as Rappaport says further, this notion of meek acceptance is far from the truth.  Jews resisted and that resistance took many many forms from militant uprisings and rebellions to secret schools, plots, escape plans or the simple practice of their faith.  And – the biggest resistance of all – survival.

Rappaport brings these stories to young readers in this important and fascinating book.  Her research took six years and the extensive bibliography provides a treasure for anyone wanting to know more.  Rappaport’s research led her to books, diaries, letters.  She dug through archives, examined photographs, traveled to museums and to Israel, spoke to survivors and even was able to meet a few resistors in person.  The book is divided into five sections including In the Ghettos, In the Camps and Partisan Warfare.  The chapters in each section are the inspiring and heart-breaking stories of the people  – many of them incredibly young – who fought back in so many ways.

Stories include the account of the Dutch Jew Walter Susskind, who with the Dutch resistance, smuggled 4,500 Jewish children into hiding and of the forest camp/village that sheltered more than 1, 230 Polish Jews from the Nazis.  There are stories of the secret celebrations of faith in the camps and the active ambushing of trucks carrying Jews from Belgium ghetto camps to the concentration camps.  Each story speaks of courage and determination.

The horror of the Holocaust is a shadow that lies behind every word but the stories are inspiring and heartening as well as heart-breaking.  Each one reveals some new small historical nugget that shines a new light on what happened.  This is a book that belongs in every collection.

Common Core Connections

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.7.9 Compare and contrast a fictional portrayal of a time, place, or character and a historical account of the same period as a means of understanding how authors of fiction use or alter history.

Ask the school librarian to booktalk historical fiction with accounts of the Holocaust.  Have each student select and read one of the historical fiction books.  Ask the student in an essay to compare and contrast the fictional account with that of Beyond Courage.  Ask students to cite examples that support or contrast with the nonfiction account.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.8.2 Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to supporting ideas; provide an objective summary of the text.

Ask the students what they think the central theme of Beyond Courage is.  Have the students write a 3 paragraph essay that summarizes how the author supports this idea and cite evidence.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.6 Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.

Have each student check out a nonfiction book from the library on the Holocaust.  Ask the students to compare the views of the authors of the two books, describing the details used to support their views.  Cite the text of each book.

Other Nonfiction Monday reviews can be found today at Booktalking.

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