Benno and the Night of Broken Glass
Benno was the neighborhood's favorite cat.
During the week, he napped in a sunny corner of Mitzi Stein's dress shop and begged scrapped from Moshe the butcher. But one night in Berlin, the Nazis changed everything. Life would never be the same.
This cat's-eye view introduces the Holocaust to children in a gentle way that can open discussion of this period.
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About the Author
"Through the eyes of an orange and white cat, readers are introduced to the harrowing event known as Kristallnacht. Benno spends his days observing the friendly, predictable rituals in his neighborhood: girls walking together to school, shopkeepers selling their wares, a Jewish family eating Sabbath dinner, a Christian family eating Sunday lunch. Then one night, he sees brown-shirted men breaking down doors, smashing shop windows, and setting fire to books and buildings. Jewish families disappear, and even though the people that remain resume their normal activities, nothing is ever quite the same again. The straightforward text describes events without sentimentality, as if Benno were simply reporting what he sees and hears. 'In Apartment 3B, the mob was breaking the Adlers' furniture and throwing books out the window. . . . The Schmidts' apartment was untouched.' But what truly distinguishes this book is the striking multimedia artwork composed of paper, fabric, and drawn images in hues of olive, brown, and red. Interesting angles, textures, and patterns add to the visual effect throughout. The spreads depict a normal city neighborhood from a cat's-eye view, which is eventually upended by dark shadowy figures with big black boots. Thus the message of terror and sadness that marks the beginning of the Holocaust is transmitted in a way that is both meaningful and comprehensible. An afterword provides historical context for the story, although it presupposes knowledge of the term 'Holocaust.' Use this book with Karen Hesse's The Cats in Krasinski Square (Scholastic, 2004) for further discussion of the topic. For all collections."
--School Library Journal
"It is not easy to tell young kids the horrifying truth about the Holocaust, but this picture book is a good place to start. Using the fictionalized viewpoint of a cat, Benno, it shows what happened to families in one Berlin community. Benno feels welcome in many homes and stores, and he likes following a Jewish girl, Sophie, and her Christian friend to school everyday. Then everything changes, and the neighborhood is no longer friendly. Benno cowers as terrifying men in brown shirts light bonfires, and then there is a night 'like no other, ' during which Benno hears screams and shattering glass, and he watches apartments being ravaged and the synagogue burn. The next day, life continues for some, but Benno never sees others again, including Sophie and her family. The unframed, double-page spreads, created with a mix of collage, drawings, and digital montage, show the warm neighborhood transformed as red flames take over, books fly, and soldiers march in black boots with razor-edged soles. A brief afterword and bibliography add more information and historical context."