I had the pleasure of winning a copy of this amazing book chronicling the events and circumstances of KRISTALLNACHT told through the alternating voices of a two boys on opposite sides of the early days of WWII and the beginning of the Holocaust. Since today is HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY, I thought it was fitting to feature the book. I will give away a signed copy of the book to one lucky reader who leaves a comment.
Here’s Jennifer to talk about her book:
Facts about Crushing the Red Flowers
Whether you’ve read Crushing the Red Flowers or not, read on!
Think you know the characters in Crushing the Red Flowers? Emil is a superstar at playing marbles and Friedrich loves his train collection. But can you guess their secrets? Their private hopes, dreams, likes, and dislikes? If you haven’t read the book yet, that’s okay, you can keep reading this blog. There are no spoilers that would give away big plot points. Just a few fun facts to give you an added glimpse into the characters’ worlds. I’ll even reveal a secret crush.
Crushing the Red Flowers is a middle-grade novel set in 1938 Germany over the pogrom commonly known as Kristallnacht. The story is written with alternating perspectives of two twelve-year-old main characters — Emil, a German Jewish boy, and Friedrich, a boy in Hitler’s Jungvolk.
What are Emil’s and Friedrich’s secrets?
Friedrich secretly wishes he could watch Emil beat the Jungvolk boys in a marble competition.
Emil secretly loves to play the piano. That is, he loves to create music, but hates being forced to practice. He wishes everyone would leave his house so he could sit by himself and invent melodies.
What jobs do Emil and Friedrich want when they get older?
Emil intends to become an upholsterer. He wants to learn to create furniture as fine as his favorite red velvet chair. His parents had always encouraged him to take up a trade instead of attending the Gymnasium (a German academic high school) because they thought knowledge of a vocation would be useful to him if he emigrated. And they also saw that it was becoming increasingly difficult for Jewish people to attend the Gymnasium.
Friedrich would like to pursue an engineering apprenticeship. He wants to leave school and begin the apprenticeship in a couple years.
What are other fun facts about Emil and Friedrich?
Friedrich walks with a slight hunch because he doesn’t like to be noticed.
Emil hums when he strolls down the street because he always has a tune in his head.
Friedrich really wants a good friend. Yes, it’s true that he believes 95% of the population are fools, but he cherishes the honest connection he has with the other five percent. He had one close friend in the past, so he appreciates the significance of a solid friendship.
Emil loves learning Hebrew. The language makes him feel powerful. He pretends the foreign characters are a secret code language that only a few can read.
Friedrich longs for a closer relationship with his parents, like he had when he was younger. But he doesn’t know how to reconnect with them.
Emil wants to eat nut cake with his neighbor, Mrs. Schmidt, like he had when he was younger. To Emil, those years represent an easier, golden time when Jewish people were fully integrated into German society.
What about the other characters?
Papa (Friedrich’s father) hates kites. They remind him of the years of German hyperinflation in the early 1920s when everyone was hungry. The German currency had devalued so rapidly that neighborhood children used to fasten old, worthless banknotes together to create makeshift kites. Whenever Papa had seen a child flying one of these kites, he knew that child was not eating well. He never bought a kite for Friedrich.
Mother (Friedrich’s mother) fell in love with her husband because of his kindness toward her younger brother, Hilmar. When Papa came for visits before they were married, he would always bring him marzipan (almond sweets).
Vati (Emil’s father) likes to drive fast on purpose. Whenever Vati drives a car without his wife, he purposely speeds a bit too fast.
Mama (Emil’s mother) had started the visa application process long before Emil and his family realize. She never told anyone because, early on, they did not want to leave Germany. Mama knows her family is further along on the visa wait list than her husband thinks.
Sarah (Emil’s sister) loves spending time at the Bund, a Jewish social club. She joined after Jewish people were no longer allowed to use public places as they previously had. Sarah learned to play table tennis (ping pong) there and quickly became the best player.
Ari (Sarah’s crush) also has a secret crush on Sarah because she plays table tennis well.
Günter hates being a Jungvolk leader. He has no patience for mediocre young boys and believes he can make greater contributions in another position. He longs for advancement and wants to prove himself. He keeps details on boys’ strengths, not their faults as Friedrich believes, in his notebook, in case he is permitted to take favored boys along with him after he leaves. His favorites are Johannes (for his athleticism), Fritz (for his obedience and loyalty to Nazism), and Friedrich (for his ability to solve problems).
Jennifer Voigt Kaplan is an award-winning author of children’s fiction. Her debut children’s novel, Crushing the Red Flowers, was published November, 2019 by Ig Publishing. The manuscript was endorsed by James Patterson and recognized in six literary contests before its publication, including earning a Letter of Merit for the SCBWI Work-in-Progress Grant and winning the middle-grade category of Publishers Weekly Booklife Prize for Fiction. Jennifer was born in Germany, raised in Philadelphia, and now resides in the New York City area.
Follow her Facebook author page, facebook.com/JenniferVoigtKaplan, or visit her website, JenniferVK.com, to stay informed of her latest projects.
Here is Darlene’s review of the book:
CRUSHING THE RED FLOWERS by Jennifer Voigt Kaplan is a brave and powerful story, uniquely told, of what it means to be human during a time of insanity and chaos. In 1938 Germany, the voices of a German-Jewish boy and a boy in Hitler’s Jungvolk alternate their stories in a compelling and heart-rending tale. Vivid details of time and place, and fully developed characters with empathy, confusion, and conflict, raise this story to the top of the holocaust genre. Based on the author’s true family experiences, this is a novel that will generate many class discussions for an overlooked time period just before the outbreak of WWII. Highly recommended for middle school and up. A stunning debut.