Saturday 15 November 2014

Erika's story by Ruth Vander Zee, illustrated by Roberto Innocenti

Erika’s story by Ruth Vander Zee, illustrated by Roberto Innocenti (Jonathan Cape, 2003)

ISBN 0 224 07015 0

24 pages with full and half page illustrations

Subjects: World War Two, ghettos, Holocaust, children, babies, junior fiction (Year 5-8)

Two things struck me about this book. The first was the unusual cover with a cut out star showing the yellow of the page behind. The second was how short it was. In fact it's possible to find the whole story online, and it’s probably less than 1000 words – but then you would miss the full impact of the illustrations. 

Having said that – the illustrations are also online, on the Children’s book illustration blog. (I’m not sure who runs this blog and it seems slightly odd to have all these lovely pictures online. Hopefully it’s all legal and he/she has got copyright permission to do so.)

The book begins with an Author’s note in which Ruth Vander Zee tells how "in 1995, the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II, I met the woman in this story." After that, it morphs into Erika’s story, which in many ways is a story about the unknown – because Erika doesn’t know the date of her birth, her birth name or anything about her birth family. All she knows is an act of love and sacrifice that saved her as a baby, from the fate that awaited everyone else on the train.

This review on the blog called picture's worth a thousand words makes some interesting points about the use of colour and the style of the illustrations.  

Teachers notes are available here

Author’s website
Ruth Vander Zee grew up in Chicago and now lives in Florida. Her website showcases the books she has written, including Eli remembers about a family's links back to Eastern Europe before the war. 

Info about the illustrator
Roberto Innocenti, born near Florence in 1940, is not an illustrator I’ve heard of before but that must be my mistake as he is he is apparently very well regarded and his picture books have been published throughout the world. 

© Patmos Verlagshaus
© Patmos Verlagshaus
New Zealand connections:
The Holocaust Centre of New Zealand is on Webb St, near the top of Willis St in Wellington,
It is open 10.00 am to 1.00 pm Monday to Friday and Sunday, closed Saturday and Jewish Holidays, or you can email to arrange a visit.

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