Danica Davidson Presents: I WILL PROTECT YOU: A Powerful Holocaust Survival Story for MG Readers.

I recently read an amazing first-person account of Eva Mozes and her twin sister Miriam who survived captivity at Auschwitz. holocaust bookWritten by Danica Davidson, I WILL PROTECT YOU is a harrowing and courageous story taken from numerous interviews with Eva and deserves to be shared with the kidlit community.

Here is my review of this important book:

This book for middle grade readers is a powerful and chilling firsthand account of survival from the brutal Auschwitz concentration camp during WWII. Eva Mozes recounts the time she and her twin sister Miriam spent at the camp. Since they were twins, they were separated from the rest of the captives so that Dr. Joseph Mengele…the “Angel of death” could do experiments on them. Despite the cruelty, starvation, and deprivation Eva and Miriam were exposed to by Mengele, they survived. They emigrated to the US and lived their lives. Eva spent her later years educating others by sharing her story and spreading her message of forgiveness.  While there are many adult books written by Holocaust survivors, few are written for children. It is not an easy read. It makes the reader sad, scared, uncomfortable, and angry. But it is an important book about an important time in history. A time we should always remember. Because it is through the open minds of children that we can change points of view about the world for the better and stop such horrors from happening again.  Spare and well written, this book should be part of every classroom discussion about the Holocaust.

I had an opportunity to ask author Danica Davidson about Eva’s story and how she came to write it. Here is Danica:

I WILL PROTECT YOU is a remarkable firsthand account of twins who survived the horrors of Auschwitz. How did you discover this story?

I had experienced increased antisemitism in my life, especially in my work as a journalist, and I was trying to figure out something I could write that could possibly be helpful. I was reading a lot of Jewish books and seeing Jewish speakers, and one day an email came from my temple telling me that a Mengele twin was going to be giving a speech at a university about an hour from me. This was Eva. So I read up all about her and showed up for her speech. After she talked I introduced myself to her, hoping I could maybe interview her for a magazine, but when I mentioned I’d published sixteen kids’ books, she lit up and exclaimed she wanted to do a kid’s book about her story.

Why do you feel this story is an important one for young readers of today?

Eva said the only way to really fight antisemitism is to teach kids about it in an accessible way. She said that Holocaust education in schools usually starts at 12 (if at all), and by then it’s too late because the prejudices are already formed.

I agree with her. I knew all about the Holocaust in elementary school (mainly from my dad and from reading), and it’s been shocking to me over the years to realize how abysmal Holocaust education is, and how many people know next to nothing about the Holocaust. Knowing history helps us from repeating history.

You were lucky enough to interview Eva Mozes for this book. Tell us what she was like. What was it about her that resonated with you and made you want to tell her story?

Eva was vivacious, feisty, accessible, passionate, and strong. She was a relentless educator of the Holocaust, because she didn’t want it happening again. The horrible memories had taken over her life for years, but by the time I met her, she had faced her demons and was stronger for it.     Mozes Kor_Eva_no credit

I wanted to tell her story because I recognized how rare it is for a child to survive a death camp, and her child’s perspective would be a way to reach young readers about the Holocaust. After interviewing Eva and talking with her extensively, I would write chapters at a time and send them to her for her approval. She really liked how the book came together.

What message would Eva want young people to remember from her experience as a concentration camp survivor?

Eva would want young readers to know that you can accomplish amazing things, no matter what your age. She would encourage kids who listened to her speak to go out and do a good deed. What the good deed was, she left up to them, because there are many good deeds out there and people are talented in different areas. She also hoped that abused kids could find some solace in this book and understand that healing after trauma is possible, and that if you’re abused it’s not your fault. It is always the abuser’s fault, and you don’t have to carry that trauma with you.

What else would you like readers to know about this book?

I’d like readers to know that there is nothing else like this book on the market for the age range, and it’s meant to revolutionize Holocaust education and fill a gap. Eva hoped every child would be able to read this book. She passed away fifteen days after we accepted Little, Brown’s offer on the finished manuscript, and nothing is the same without her. But I’m doing my best to make her vision happen and have this book reach as many readers as possible.

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Danica Davidson is the author of eighteen books for young readers, ranging from serious nonfiction to 12 middle grade Minecrafter adventure novels, to comic books, to the manga how-to books Manga Art for Beginners, Manga Art for Everyone, and Chalk Art Manga. Please visit her website at www.danicadavidson.com.

Order info: I Will Protect You is available as a hardcover, ebook and audio book. You can find a list of places to order online here [https://www.lbyr.com/titles/eva-mozes-kor/i-will-protect-you/9780316460637/]. It’s also available in local bookstores.

Praise

“The gripping story and fast-paced chapters make this a valuable purchase for reluctant readers. In a world where most people who lived the Holocaust are no longer with us, this book is a sincere and truthful reminder of this horrific event.” —School Library Journal

“Powerful… Unflinching in its first-person telling, the narrative is carried by its narrator’s passionate conviction, per an afterword, that ‘memories will provide the necessary fuel to light the way to hope.'”—Publishers Weekly

“A compelling story of survival.”—Booklist

“Bright and compelling, Eva invites young readers to plant flowers of knowledge, love, and acceptance in their own minds. Moving and informative; a powerful resource for Holocaust education.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Few Holocaust survivors have had Eva Mozes Kor’s impact. Together with Danica Davidson, the story of this young girl is narrated in a manner that I would not have thought possible, faithful to the history and yet accessible to young readers. Read this work and meet a person you will never forget with a story that is worth telling and retelling.”—Michael Berenbaum, award-winning author; Professor of Jewish Studies, American Jewish University; and former Director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Holocaust Research Institute

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Marissa Moss Presents: THE WOMAN WHO SPLIT THE ATOM: THE LIFE OF LISE MEITNER + A Chance to Win a Copy

I recently had the pleasure of reading the newest non-fiction book written by best-selling author MARISSA MOSS. THE WOMAN WHO SPLIT THE ATOM: THE LIFE OF LISE MEITNER is a detailed, and comprehensive account of an unknown female physicist who discovered nuclear fission but received little credit for her discovery.

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Bestselling author-illustrator Marissa Moss tells the gripping story of Lise Meitner, the physicist who discovered nuclear fission. Here is the blurb:

As a female Jewish physicist in Berlin during the early 20th century, Lise Meitner had to fight for an education, a job, and equal treatment in her field, like having her name listed on her own research papers.

Meitner made groundbreaking strides in the study of radiation, but when Hitler came to power in Germany, she suddenly had to face not only sexism, but also life-threatening anti-Semitism as well. Nevertheless, she persevered and one day made a discovery that rocked the world: the splitting of the atom. While her male lab partner was awarded a Nobel Prize for the achievement, the committee refused to give her any credit.

Suddenly, the race to build the atomic bomb was on—although Meitner was horrified to be associated with such a weapon. “A physicist who never lost her humanity,” Meitner wanted only to figure out how the world works, and advocated for pacifism while others called for war.

The book includes an afterword, author’s note, timeline, select terms of physics, glossary of scientists mentioned, end notes, select bibliography, index, and Marissa Moss’s celebrated drawings throughout. The Woman Who Split the Atom is a fascinating look at Meitner’s fierce passion, integrity, and her lifelong struggle to have her contributions to physics recognized.  Recommended for ages 9-up

I recently interviewed Marissa and asked her how this amazing story came about.

  1. How did you discover Lise Meitner and what led you to tell her story?

My youngest son is a grad student in physics and he told me about Lise Meitner. He knows how interested I am in people (often women) who deserve to be better known but haven’t gotten the credit they deserve. He warned me Meitner could be tricky since her discover led directly to the atomic bomb, but she herself refused to work on it (though she was asked) and the more I learned about her, the more compelling I found her. 

2. How did you set up your research for such a complicated and technical project? What was the most difficult part?

I started by reading the two adult biographies written about her and followed up by going through her amazing archive of letters in documents, now in Cambridge, England where she spent the last years of her life. She not only had letters that were sent to her but copies of the letters she sent, so I could see both sides of the conversation. Most of the letters are in German, so I had to dust off my German language skills. It got easier the more letters I read as I became familiar with her writing style.

Two things were especially difficult — the first was to explain the physics involved clearly so a middle-grade student could understand it all. The second was not to sound too angry or outraged about Otto Hahn, her long-time partner who stole the credit for her discovery. I wanted to let the readers draw their own conclusions by simply describing what he said or did, but it was hard to keep calm whenever I wrote about him. Meitner herself was so generous and patient with him in all their many letters, even carefully explaining to him the momentous discovery which he didn’t understand at all, yet had no trouble taking full credit for. 

3. What important ideas do you want readers to remember about Lise and her life’s work?

I want them to know that she was a scientist who faced incredible obstacles, first as a woman, then as a Jew, but she was determined to do what she loved. And she did it with absolute integrity, pure science for knowledge’s sake, never as a tool of politicians or the military. 

4. Why this story and why now?

This was actually delayed due to covid (as so many things in publishing were). When I wrote most of it, Trump was president and the echoes of him and some of Hitler’s actions were positively eerie — the preference, for example, of relying not on experts for information, but on a trusted close circle. So when Hitler’s personal photographer dismissed the potential of atomic energy/weapons, Hitler agreed, rather than listening to the scientists in his government.

Now, with the Russian war on Ukraine, it seems even more timely, as the blanket German support of Hitler seems disturbingly parallel to the blanket Russian support of Putin. The German people thought Hitler was making their country stronger and that’s what mattered most. The average Russian seems to think the same of Putin. 

5. What else should we know about the WOMAN WHO SPLIT THE ATOM?

Meitner’s integrity is an incredible example for all of us to follow. She always did what was right, not what was easy.

**STARRED REVIEW** 
“Moss’ approach to this biography is notable in several ways, from the organization of facts into a very readable narrative to surprisingly clear explanations of Meitner’s scientific work and its significance. Even the back matter is uncommonly useful.”―Booklist

**STARRED REVIEW**
“A scorching profile of a brilliant physicist whose proper re cognition was long delayed thanks to sexism, antisemitism, and personal betrayal. . .A bright tale of a life dedicated to science, well stocked with dramatic moments and discoveries.” –   Kirkus Reviews

I am giving away a copy of this amazing book to one commenter chosen at random. Leave a comment below for one entry. Share this post on social media for a second chance to win.

 

marissa

Marissa Moss has written than seventy children’s books, from picture books to middle-grade and young adult novels. Best known for the Amelia’s Notebook series, her books are popular with teachers and children alike, using graphic formats to introduce history in an accessible, appealing way. Barbed Wire Baseball won the California Book Award, Gold medal and the California Young Reader Medal.

In 2013, Moss founded Creston Books. The small press has earned starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Kirkus, and Booklist, as well as awards. Each list balances picture book and older readers, debut authors and established names, showcasing the best in children’s books.

Did You Know These Ho-HO-Holiday Facts?

Most of us know that Christmas trees originated in Germany and that “White Christmas” is the most popular Christmas song. But here are some facts that might be new to you and your loved ones and perfect for sharing around the holidays.

TINSEL was invented in Nuremberg, Germany in 1610 and originally made of real silver.

Each year the folks from Oslo, Norway donate a Christmas tree to Trafalgar Square in London to thank the British for their help in WWII.

Rudolph the Reindeer was created by the Montgomery Ward department store to market holiday coloring books. The original Rudolph’s nose wasn’t red because that was seen as a sign of alcoholism.

 Celebrating Christmas was banned in England from 1647-1660 by the Puritans. In 1620, the Puritans spent their first Christmas day working. As late a s 1850, the holiday was not legal in New England so stores were open and children were required to attend school.

The Bicycle Playing Card Company manufactured cards in WWII that, when soaked, revealed escape routes for POW’s held in Germany. These decks helped at least 32 people escape from Colditz Castle.

Happy Holidays!

 

Kathleen Burkinshaw on Authenticity in Historical Fiction.

Today it is my pleasure to help Kathleen Burkinshaw – the award-winning author of THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSON – celebrate the book’s third anniversary. In this post she discusses the research involved in the sequel she is writing for the book. Here’s Kathleen:

I’ve always loved reading history books and researching a topic to find unexpected or lesser known facts on a subject, long before my first book published. I also tend to get so caught up in research, especially when I find out something that leads me down a totally different path than I could have imagined (I can’t be alone here 😊). So,  I have to be sure I’m not using it as a way to avoid actually writing my story and being creative.  

For example, I have been working on the sequel to The Last Cherry Blossom (TLCB) for a while now. Health issues have gotten in my way and then because I hadn’t written in a while, insecurity settled in. So, I spent a lot of time looking for, purchasing, and reading books on life in Tokyo during the American Occupation, since the sequel takes place a few years after the end of WWII. I wanted to involve headlines and propaganda posters as my chapter headings like I had in TLCB.  I was ecstatic when I found out I could subscribe to a resource that included the STARS and STRIPES newspaper edition that reported from the Pacific region.  

But I couldn’t help but feel that my research was missing something, just not sure what that ‘something’ could be. Since, I couldn’t quite figure that out, I began writing more scenes for the sequel.  As I did, some of my insecurity lifted and I realized the importance of balancing my research time with making time to write creatively.  It didn’t work well for me to have an all or nothing approach.

However, I kept getting stuck in some of my descriptions and the direction I wanted my story to take.  I have mentioned before that while writing TLCB, I found my sources in unexpected places. One in particular was my family’s visit to Hiroshima, honoring my mother at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Hall for Atomic Bomb Victims, a few months after she passed away. Being there in person, I  discovered the beauty that my Mom often spoke about growing up in Hiroshima before the bombing.  I used this discovery in re-writing my descriptions of Hiroshima for my final edits.

Well, this time, a resource found me believe it, or not!  It began with a speaking engagement for a local book club. After the event, a lovely woman introduced herself to me and told me of her recent visit to Japan. Coincidence, yes, but the incredible part is coming next! Interestingly enough, she had a friend (who lives in Maryland), Mr. Pittell, that served in the US Air Force and had been stationed at Miho Air Base (now Miho-Yonago Airport) in Japan during the later Occupation years(1953-54). He recently sent her copies of photos that he took during that time.  She asked if I might be interested in seeing them. My eyes immediately lit up and I said a resounding, YES!!

She received his permission to show the pictures to me, and we met at a local coffee shop. Not only were there pictures, but he also had written a few descriptive paragraphs about them. He loved photography and these photos were a treasure trove for me! I had the opportunity to see literal snapshots in time capturing the essence of everyday life in the town and neighboring towns to Miho Air Force Base (about a 3-hour drive north of Hiroshima).

Most pictures were in black and white, but he did have some pictures in color. I was thrilled to be able to see how young women dressed during this time and to imagine my mom dressing like that as well. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of her early teen years in Tokyo. I only have a few of her and my Dad when they first married and were on their honeymoon at Lake Yamanaka (she was in her mid-20s by then).

Mr. Pittell kindly let me keep his copies for a while to use as a guide for descriptions in my book.  This was the ‘something’ I was missing. I now had a better idea of what the towns, the soldiers, and the Japanese people looked like during the first years of the American Occupation.  These pictures also inspired another tangent to my story line for the sequel.  On top of that, I now have a wonderful new friend in the woman who shared these pictures with me.

You just never know where you will find your resources or where they might find you! I mean, what are the odds of meeting a woman who just received pictures from a soldier stationed in Japan during Occupation time?! 😊 I’m a firm believer that connections matter whether through emotions bared through your writing so that your voice or other voices can be heard; or in actually meeting someone and making that face to face good ol’ fashioned, in-person connection.

Once I finally complete my sequel, I hope that readers will feel the authenticity in and connect with my descriptions gifted to me by someone I didn’t even know!

Here is one of the incredible pictures that Mr. Pittell had taken:

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August also happens to be TLCB’s 3rd Blooming Anniversary and to celebrate, I have a Rafflecopter giveaway going on now through August 31st. Two winners will be chosen at random and win what is shown in the picture below along with a complimentary 45-minute Skype visit for teachers, librarians, and home school students. Below is the link to my TLCB Rafflecopter Giveaway. Thank you and Good Luck!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/cd590dfc6/?

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