How do we respond today to human suffering and disaster? We retweet a 140-character protest, we affix magnetic bumper stickers to our car, and maybe we go hold a sign and protest in a country where that right is protected. What frame of reference does a child today have when we tell the story of Rauol Wallenberg?
Louise Borden has done an amazing job communicating Wallenberg's story to children. Be assured, this is not a book aimed at adults, and not even a book intended to be a comprehensive Holocaust history. Rather, Borden is trying to explain the man, Wallenberg, in way children can understand, and perhaps emulate when the time comes for them to be heroes.
Learning history, children often cannot relate to the actors of the world. Heroes are heroes because that's what they are. It's like you get a hero card when you are born and live a super-human life. Borden smashes this fantasy, depicting Raoul on the cover as a young man, and his elementary school photo in the first pages. We see his baby photos, the house where he grew up, and even some of his architectural drawings from school in Michigan. Stories such as getting mugged while traveling across America color his life and show us that a hero must start as a boy learning about the world. Children reading the book can think similar things of their own lives.
The book tells the story of the war, how Raoul Wallenberg risked his life to save the Jews of Hungary. He flaunted the law right under the nose of the police, and even pulled Jews out of the Danube who survived mass shootings. Despite the rough and gruesome true history, the book is remarkably tasteful with no gruesome photos or overly scary descriptions.
The style of writing in the book is short lines of prose that do not rhyme. This can be disconcerting when you first read it, and indeed some reviewers here panned the book as a result. But remember - this is a book for children, not adults. I realized that it is easier to read as a result of the broken lines, especially with foreign names like Lidingo, Wising, Kappsta, Linnegatan, Humlegarden, and unfamiliar words to children like archipelago and skerries. The book is not dumbed down, but my 7 year old could read through it. It does challenge the child in both language and theme, both in an approachable way.
I can also tell that a tremendous amount of research went into this book, and I most definitely learned facts I did not know before, despite having a veritable archive of Jewish history tomes in my house. The photos alone in this book are amazing, many of which I've never seen.
My highest recommendation for this volume as an addition to your library. It will help your child learn about true heroism, and most importantly, how a person becomes a hero through the course of events around himself.