Sharing this post on social media? Use this description to make it accessible: [Image description: Illustration from ‘Oskar and the Eight Blessings,’ by. Text “…Until the night of broken glass.” over three images of the same moment – a synagogue burning, black soldier’s boots trampling shards of glass, and three people hiding in dark shadows]
Picture book, Recommended for ages 4.5+
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This was such a beautiful – and such a hard story to read.
Reading Oskar And The Eight Blessings together, we introduced the Earthquakes to the concept of America as a sanctuary, and our responsibility as citizens to maintain this national identity.
Through it, we see the beauty of interfaith kindness, and how a young boy navigating the streets of NY for the first time manages the long cold walk – with eight small acts of humanity from the people he meets.
I’m grateful for this story because it’s beautiful and gives us a complex story my kids will learn to understand deeper as they grow older. But I’m MOST grateful for the parts that make this book hard to read. Small references, without sugar-coating, about the Night of Broken Glass forced me explain to my 5yo why this boy had to leave his family behind, what likely happened to them, and the hard decisions they made in 1938.
I didn’t force the conversation, but his questions eventually led to the existence of war… To the concept of genocide… To the Holocaust… To why it’s so very necessary that we fight against tyranny and violence today.
So it wasn’t an easy read, but somehow this book made it easier to have the conversations we needed to have – if that makes any sense. And it gave us some pride in what small things we’ve done right with our constitution and country, and what things we need to fight for and protect.
For kids’ questions about the Night of Broken Glass & Holocaust
Benno and the Night of Broken Glass goes into deeper background, explaining the significance of this night as the start of the Holocaust. It’s got more grit and heart-crushing than Oskar, with little of the hope and space to breathe. Unlike Oskar – it’s not a book kids will want to read twice.
So we read Oskar first, then pick this one up when the kids ask about the vague reference to the Night of Broken Glass.
From there, to end on note that doesn’t send kids into a spiraling pit of despair, you may want to continue on to The Cat Who Lived With Anne Frank. Like Benno, it’s narrated by a cat – which for some reason makes these horrifying history stories a little easier to get through.The Cat Who Lived With Anne Frank. is a bit wordy, so it was a good read with the 7yo, but the 5yo couldn’t follow it.
Throughout The Cat Who Lived With Anne Frank, we discussed the symbolism of the swastika (from the POV of the Cat, the author called them ‘black spiders’ which was kind of ambiguous and confusing, I wish they just called it what it was) and explained why this is a symbol of hate and terror and not something to joke about.
Our city has a large Jewish population and the swastika shows up in and around our schools on a regular basis. So unfortunately we have to discuss what to do when we see a swastika, why and how to report it, and why it’s our job to support and stand with our Jewish friends and neighbors. The story included non-Jewish accomplices without centering them.
Looking for kindness
The most powerful aspect of Oskar And The Eight Blessings was how it ties into the concept of Hanukkah as a time to look for hope through what feels like impossible odds. Through Oskar’s eyes, my 5-year-old found ways to look for small miracles (acts of kindness from strangerS) as he walked to his aunt’s house through Manhattan.
How he can be blessed by small acts of kindness and compassion, and he can return that blessing – but most importantly – that reciprocation is not always necessary and real kindness is non-transactional.
Is this #OwnVoices?
Authors: Tanya Simon, Richard Simon
Illustrator: Mark Siegel
Richard Simon grew up in America as a Jewish in an antisemitic NY neighborhood, according to this article in the Jewish Book Council. I haven’t found info to confirm whether ornot Tanya (married to Simon) or Siegel (a common German-Jewish surname) identify as Jewish or immigrants.
How we calculate the overall awesomeness score of books.
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