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Tapestry of Hope: Holocaust Writing for Young People

by Lillian Boraks-Nemetz and Irene N. Watts, eds.

Few young people today have living family who endured the Holocaust. For most kids, as one poet in this collection points out, the events of StarTrek have more immediacy. Tapestry of Hope reflects an urgently felt need never to forget a monstrous outbreak of evil and the courage that finally defeated it.

Boraks-Nemetz and Watts, seasoned writers now living in Vancouver, interweave survivors’ accounts with fiction, poetry, and drama. All describe, usually matter-of-factly, profound disruptions of normal childhood: mothers replaced by strangers, fathers disappearing like ghosts, briefly reappearing, then never seen again. The world shrinks to a window in a room, or a death camp. Though few selections will fail to connect, some are much stronger than others. Standout contributors include Kathy Kacer (a child hides in a dresser as soldiers take away her mother), Boraks-Nemetz (a nine-year-old walks alone out of the Warsaw Ghetto), Judith Kalman (a Jewish family leaves post-Holocaust Hungary in 1956), and Mordecai Richler (North American teens tour Dachau). Many are haunting: Eva Wiseman describes the gleeful butchering of a young mother and twin boys that happens so quickly we are forced to reread in horror, incredulous that humans could act in such a way.

The editors provide a timeline and further readings, but the contextualizing notes are brief and not very illuminating. I repeatedly wished for a section of contributors’ biographies and further information about the excerpts, many of them chapters from other books. Because of the nature of the material, for younger children, Tapestry of Hope is best shared with a parent or teacher. For older readers, it’s a timely addition to Holocaust resources.