Book Review | Benno and the Night of Broken Glass
by Meg Wiviott

Score: 3

Illustrated by Josée Bisaillon

© 2010, Kar-Ben Publishing.

Using picture books to explain the Holocaust to children is rarely a good idea. However, this may be a rare exception. We watch a German neighborhood going about its business in the days leading up to Kristallnacht (The Night of Broken Glass) through the eyes of a at building’s cat, Benno. This unique perspective that of an animal used to being fed and loved by the same individuals day-by-day provides the reader with the sense that things are changing.

Benno lives in the basement of an apartment building in Berlin. He visits all the occupants, Jewish and those of other faith backgrounds.  He is an active observer of the changes that take place in the neighborhood as the Nazi’s come to power. He is especially aware of the changes – the damage and the missing neighbors – following the Night of Broken Glass.

The language of this book is simple, yet powerful, emotional and compelling. It builds slowly on the changes that occurred in Germany prior to the start of the Holocaust – children who were friends, no longer speaking to one another, the availability of meat scraps ceases. It will raise questions about why one neighbor’s home was spared and another’s was demolished. The Afterword at the back of the book is brief and contains historical facts, figures and photographs.

The illustrations: a combination of collage, drawings and digital montage, really set the scene for the story. They admirably convey the emotions of the individuals in the particular time and place being discussed, whether at the Shabbat dinner table,  following Sunday dinner, during the Kristallnacht pogrom or following the night’s terrors.

This book would be an excellent introduction for those looking to discuss the Holocaust, but not sure where to begin.

Grade Level: 4th-9th

Ages: 9-15

©2010 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and all rights reserved.
Books used in this review were provided by my local public library.
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