Monday, August 18, 2014

Two Kids' Book Picks: One Light, One Heavy

Since my children's school only assigned a grand total of eighteen books for my six kids to read over the summer, I decided to add a few more unassigned kids' books to my reading list this summer. Hah! If your local school is like ours and your kids need to read 25 books each just to complete the school year requirements, either of these two choices would be great picks.

1. Saint Nicholas and the Mouse of Myra, by Jay Stoeckl. This graphic novel is the sequel to Saint Francis and Brother Duck, which I reviewed last year. I enjoyed Stoeckl's second book even more than his first, perhaps because our family loves St. Nick so much. Whereas St. Francis' sidekick in the first book was good mostly for comic relief, the Mouse of Myra is a real dramatic foil for St. Nicholas, who quietly converts this pagan and skeptical mouse to Christianity. Notwithstanding the deeper themes, the Saint Nicholas graphic novel still retained enough of the series' original lightness to prompt my 3-year-old to run away with the book and attempt to hide it in her secret stash.

Although recommended for all ages, Saint Nicholas and the Mouse of Myra is written at a third- to fifth-grade level and would probably appeal most to kids of that age category. I can also imagine parents having a great time reading it to the whole family, especially as December approaches with its celebrations of St. Nicholas' Day (December 7) and Christmas. (To purchase the book from Amazon, click here.)

2. Children of Terror, by Inge Auerbacher and Bozenna Gilbride. Far heavier in tone than the Stoeckl graphic novel, Children of Terror is an autobiographical account of two survivors of the Nazi death camps -- Inge, a German Jew, and Bozenna, a Polish Catholic. The nearly unimaginable details of their young lives present a gripping portrait of the horrors of World War II. As the introduction explains, eleven million innocent people died during the Holocaust. Six million were Jews, and the remaining five million included many Polish Catholics. Children of Terror brings this reality home in an unforgettable way, reciting vivid details of this childhood trauma that seem engraved on the authors' minds.

I would recommend Children of Terror mainly for middle school and up because of the subject matter, although the reading level would make it accessible to younger children as well. Teachers have often chosen the book for classroom use because it recounts events of historical importance from a child's perspective and generates a lot of interest and discussion by young readers. Bozenna and Inge frequently travel across the country and abroad to tell their story. If you are interested in inviting them to speak to your local school or organization, they can be reached at or (To purchase the book from Amazon, click here).

My thanks to Paraclete Press for providing a free review copy of Saint Nicholas and the Mouse of Myra. My thanks to Bozenna Gilbride for providing a free review copy of Children of Terror.

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