Jewish Biographies for Children:


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An Unbroken Chain: My Journey Through the Nazi Holocaust

By Henry A. Oertelt
In this amazing true-life account of the Holocaust, Henry Oertelt retraces the sequence of events that forever changed his destiny. Each event is broken down into eighteen separate incidents, all intrinsically linked to form the Chain of Life that kept him alive. Although often shocking, the remarkable events of Henry's life will touch the lives and hearts of readers everywhere.

Description from Publisher

The authors link together a chain of events or facts that saved Oertelt's life during the Holocaust. While in his early `20s, he and his family were sent to a succession of Nazi concentration camps. He recounts the horror of this time, the struggle to survive, and the efforts to help one another. He argues that 18 things kept him alive, 18 being the numeric value for the Hebrew word for "life." Among these links are the more commonplace, such as his good health before being incarcerated; his youth; and his profession of trained furniture maker, which occasionally helped him to secure less punishing work assignments. Others, however, are more remarkable, like the encounter with a foreman at a work site where Oertelt was working before being sent to the camps. This man, an assumed Nazi supporter, alerted the Jews on his crew to leave the site one day when the Nazis arrived, thereby giving them the chance to escape capture, if only for a little while. Written with a good deal of emotion, the book is very affecting. A solid choice for Holocaust-memoir collections.

Description from School Library Journal

Oertelt, who lived with his older brother and widowed mother in Berlin, had just marked his twelfth birthday when Hitler came to power in January 1933. He begins with a firsthand account of Kristallnacht (November 9-10, 1938), when the Nazis destroyed Jewish property and synagogues across Germany and Austria, and he recounts the many anti-Jewish directives that followed. Oertelt divides the book into 18 "links" in the chain of events that kept him alive. They include a Nazi foreman who warned him of an impending Gestapo roundup of Jews, giving him time to flee; a 15-month confinement in Theresienstadt concentration camp, where the chance of survival was somewhat better than at Auschwitz; and the fact that he remained in relatively good health and received medical treatment from an SS general-doctor when he did become ill. The two brothers survived, but their mother and most of their relatives were murdered. This is an extraordinary memoir of one brave individual's travail during the Holocaust.

Description from Booklist

Fiddler to the World:
The Inspiring Life of Itzhak Perlman

By Carol H. Behrman
Presents the life of the talented violinist whose bout with polio left him disabled but still determined to pursue his love of music and the violin.

Description from Publisher

Yitzhak Rabin: From Soldier to Peacemaker

By Libby Hughes
A biography of the Israeli military leader, ambassador, and prime minister, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for his efforts to bring peace to the Middle East and was assassinated for the same reason.

Description from Publisher

Shalom, Haver :
Goodbye, Friend

By Barbara Sofer
In this compassionate testimonial to the late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, Sofer opens an avenue for youngsters to work through their shock, anger, and grief at his assassination. Recognizing first that we can say good-bye to a friend by remembering him, Sofer displays family photos of Rabin as a boy with his family, as a young man playing soccer and hiking with friends, and as a reluctant but able soldier for Israel. Once past the painful remembering, Sofer urges readers to continue Rabin's work for peace, "because in Hebrew shalom means both good-bye and peace." High-quality photographs are displayed artistically on attractive, uncluttered pages with Sofer's thoughtful and succinct text, which appears, appropriately, in Hebrew as well as in English. Bringing to mind the human being--the grandfather--who was the murdered prime minister, Sofer brings history home to children while sensitizing them to the fact that world leaders are people, too. An exceptional, dignified, and tender memorial.

Description from Booklist

Yitzhak Rabin :
Israel's Soldier Statesman
Beginning with a detailed and moving account of Rabin's leadership in the struggle against British attempts to keep Jews from emigrating to pre-Israel Palestine during the 1940s, this admiring, well-written biography follows the recently assassinated prime minister from military commander to diplomat and politician. Kort draws heavily from The Rabin Memoirs, as he recounts the statesman's long and distinguished public career as well as highlights of his private life. The author is especially effective in using Rabin's life to describe the momentous events in Israel's 48-year history as an autonomous nation. Kort also describes Rabin's continuous struggle with Shimon Peres for the leadership of Israel's Labor Party and how the two leaders eventually came to terms when they decided that the emerging peace agreement with the PLO was more important than their power struggle.

Description from School Library Journal

Rambam :
The Story of Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon
Brilliant scholar. Dedicated physician. Prolific author. Torah leader. Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon's (Maimonades) contributions to Torah literature and thought electrified the Jewish world during his life, and continue to influence world Jewry in modern times. This spellbinding account of a fascinating life will captivate readers of all ages!

Description from Publisher

Ilan Ramon : Israel's First Astronaut

By Tanya Stone
Stone recounts the life of Israel's first astronaut, born Ilan Wolferman, who died in February 2003 aboard the space shuttle Columbia. The son of an Israeli freedom fighter and a Holocaust survivor, Ramon became a top fighter pilot in the Israeli Air Force before obtaining degrees in electronics and computer engineering and being chosen as Israel's first astronaut. Stone emphasizes that although Ramon was not religious, he chose to take several Jewish mementos aboard the shuttle because he realized others would note the symbolism. Nearly half the text deals with Ramon's journey into space, and the descriptions of the wide variety of scientific experiments performed will be welcomed as that information was not generally reported in the aftermath of the Columbia tragedy. Appended with a chronology, a bibliography, and list of Web sites, this will be a solid addition to biography collections.

Description from Booklist

Ilan Ramon: Israel's Space Hero

By Barbara Sofer
Discover Ilan Ramon's extraordinary life from his childhood in Israel through his tragic death aboard the space shuttle Columbia. The son of an Auschwitz survivor, Ramon felt he was not only representing all Israelis, but the world Jewish community during his historic 16-day mission in space

Description from Publisher

Ilan Ramon : Jewish Star

By Devra Newberger Speregen
Ilan Ramon was a hero in every sense of the word. As a bold fighter pilot, Air Force colonel in the Israeli army, and payload specialist on the Space Shuttle Columbia, he was a role model for many young Israelis.

As Israel's first astronaut, he captured the hearts of Jews all around the world and was a national hero and a symbol of hope. Ramon's journey into space occurred as Israelis continued to suffer through a horrendous period of violence, and it helped lift the nation's spirits. For 16 exciting days, Ramon managed to bring a bit of Jewish culture, tradition, and history to the millions of people who followed the space mission. And then tragedy struck: on February 1, 2003 the Space Shuttle Columbia and all seven brave astronauts were destroyed during re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere.

Young readers will be captivated by this biography – with its rich portrait of Ramon in words and photographs -- it celebrates the life of an extraordinary man and pays tribute to his enormous courage.

Description from Publisher

Keeping the Promise: A Torah's Journey

By Tami Lehman-Wilzig
Now in a new picture book, the touching tale of a small Torah scroll's incredible journey as it is told in Keeping the Promise. Follow the scroll as it passes from a Dutch rabbi to a Bar Mitzvah boy during the Holocaust and finally to Ilan Ramon on his tragic mission in space. This true story is a tribute to three brave men, their faith in God, and their hopes for the future.

Description from Publisher

The Journey That Saved Curious George : The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey

By Louise Borden
Everybody loves Curious George, the mischievous monkey, but few know the harrowing story behind his creators' narrow escape from Paris just hours before the Nazis seized control of the city. In 1940, Hans and Margret Rey had to flee their home as the German army advanced. They began their journey to freedom on bicycles, pedaling to southern France with their children's book manuscripts among their few possessions. One of these manuscripts went on to become Curious George, the tale of that inquisitive monkey who is one of the most enduring characters in children's literature. The Reys' story is now told in dramatic detail in The Journey That Saved Curious George.

Louise Borden combed primary resources, including Hans Rey's pocket diaries, to tell this dramatic story. Archival materials — photographs, train ticket stubs, letters and cards — introduce readers to the world of Hans and Margret Rey, and Allan Drummond dramatically and colorfully illustrates their wartime trek to a new home. Follow the Reys' amazing story in this unique large-format book that resembles a travel journal; see for yourself the route the Reys took as they traveled to freedom.

Description from Publisher

A new book, The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H. A. Rey", tells of how George's creators, both German-born Jews, fled from Paris by bicycle in June 1940, carrying the manuscript of what would become Curious George as Nazis prepared to invade. ... Her account, intended for older children, is illustrated in whimsical European style by Allan Drummond, and includes photographs of the Reys and wartime Europe, as well as H. A. Rey's pocket diaries and transit documents.

Description from The New York Times

Emmanuel Ringelblum:

Historian of the Warsaw Ghetto

By Mark Beyer
The Warsaw ghetto was not only a vibrant community full of culture and tradition, but it became a prison for Polish Jews during World War II. Emmanuel Ringelblum was a resident who found a unique way of fighting injustice. His tireless efforts to record the life experience of the ghetto residents resulted in the Oneg Shabbat archives.

Description from Publisher

Jewish resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto is the focus of these titles in the new Holocaust Biographies series. Filled with heart-wrenching quotes from ghetto residents, they discuss the history as much as the individual heroes. Beyer's fine biography of Ringelblum tells how Ringelblum secretly collected eyewitness accounts and recorded what was happening as the Nazis closed in ... Spacious type, wide margins, occasional subheads, and black-and-white photos make the books quite readable, and each volume includes a brief list of books and Web sites.

Description from Booklist

Bobbie Rosenfeld: The Olympian Who Could Do Everything

By Anne Dublin
  • 2005 Canadian Jewish Book Award
  • 2005 IODE Violet Downey Award
  • Sydney Taylor Honor Book (Association of Jewish Libraries)
  • 2004 Norma Fleck Award for Children's Non-Fiction Honour Book
  • 2005 Nomination: Ontario Library Association Golden Oak Award for Adult Literacy

    Sportswriters and broadcasters in this country agree that Bobbie Rosenfeld may be Canada’s all-round greatest athlete of the twentieth century. A Sports Hall of Famer, Bobbie was born in 1904 in a small Russian town and came to Canada with her immigrant parents when she was less than a month old. Her love for all sports showed itself early. As a young girl she excelled in track and field, ice hockey, tennis, basketball and softball. At the 1928 Summer Olympics, held in Amsterdam, she won both gold and silver medals. But Bobbie Rosenfeld’s popularity was due to more than her athletic brilliance, or later, her skills as a sportswriter with the Globe & Mail; she was admired for her strength of character — her decency, honesty and sense of fair play.

    Bobbie Rosenfeld: The Olympian Who Could Do Everything is a great story for anyone, of any age. For young girls in need of role models, it is simply a must-read.

    Description from Publisher

    If Fanny "Bobbie" Rosenfeld had been an American male athlete, libraries would already have plenty of information about her. Born in the Ukraine in 1903 or 1904, Rosenfeld immigrated with her Jewish family to Canada in 1905. She became a star player in ice hockey and softball and excelled in tennis and track and field, leading the Canadian women's relay team to an Olympic gold medal and winning a silver one in the 100-meter event in 1928. When arthritis ended her athletic career, Rosenfeld coached women's track and field and became a distinguished sports writer for the Toronto Globe and Mail. Dublin supplies pertinent historical background on such topics as the Russian political climate in 1905, and she sprinkles many of Rosenfeld's very funny quips throughout the narrative. Filled with clear, captioned photographs; boxed facts; and period newspaper headlines, this first-rate biography will supplement women's history studies and collections. A time line, source notes, and a bibliography are appended.

    Description from Booklist

  • Haym Salomon:
    Liberty's Son
    Here is the little-known story of the selfless and patriotic Jewish merchant who raised money to finance the American Revolution and the new nation. The author vividly recreates Salomon’s exploits with the underground Sons of Liberty and portrays his patriotism as the natural outgrowth of his Jewish heritage. Entertaining, Haym Salomon provides young readers with a model to admire.

    Description from Publisher

    A National Jewish Book Award Winner

    Oskar Schindler: Righteous Gentile

    By Jeremy Roberts

    (Righteous Gentile)

    The true story of the German industrialist who first profited from the slave labor of Jews in his factory, but who underwent a moral conversion that caused him to sacrifice everything to save the lives of his Jewish workers toward the end of World War II.

    Description from Publisher

    In 1949, a Canadian writer's work about Oskar Schindler wouldn't sell; in 1993 the movie Schindler's List about the very same man was named the best film of the year. Who is this Oskar Schindler? And why has his story gained so much attention and praise? In this short biography, Roberts provides readers with both the heroic and the unflattering characteristics of Schindler and poses the question "righteous man or horrible sinner?" Tracing Schindler's life as a young man, successful businessman, womanizer and hero, this biography reveals the complicated character of Oskar Schindler¾a man famous today because of his efforts to save Jews from death and danger during World War II. Although Schindler did in fact save over a thousand Jews who worked in his factory, he was no saint. Roberts ably presents both Schindler's flaws and triumphs and leaves readers with an invaluable lesson: "no matter how great our flaws or sins, we all possess the seeds of a hero." With historical photographs, a timeline and glossary, and related web sites, this book is an excellent resource for in-depth study of the Holocaust. Told objectively but without the gruesome cruelties of Nazi persecution of the Jews, this biography is particularly appropriate for young readers, giving them insight into how ordinary people are a part of world history.

    Description from Children's Literature

    People Who Made History: Oskar Schindler

    By Bruce Thompson

    (Righteous Gentile)

    During the Holocaust, Oskar Schindler saved over a thousand Jewish lives by providing a sanctuary for them directly under the noses of the German executioners. This anthology considers who Schindler was, why he did so much while others did so little, and what his example tells us about the nature of moral virtue.

    Description from Publisher

    The Importance of Oskar Schindler

    (Righteous Gentile)

    Oskar Schindler was an unlikely savior. Heavy drinker and womanizer, opportunist and crook, he nevertheless was a selfless hero to the eleven hundred Polish Jews who survived the concentration camps.

    Description from Publisher

    After seeing "Schindler's List," I was curious to know the real Oskar Schindler. I wanted enough history to place Schindler in the context of his times, but it was the man himself who intrigued me. This book did not disappoint me. Schindler was a flawed man who showed great nobility when he found other people's lives in his hands. A carouser and a womanizer who failed in his marriage, and a less-than-successful businessman, he was nevertheless one of the most courageous men of the twentieth century, risking the most fearful reprisals to save his Jewish employees from murder by Nazis. The beauty of this book is that it is not inaccessibly deep--most children grades 6 and up can read and comprehend it. Because movies sometimes seem unreal to children, this book is a fine way to show them that Schindler was not a superhero, but a superior human being in ways they can admire. As an Assistant Librarian, I am happy to report that Mr. Roberts' version of the life of Oskar Schindler is an outstanding item in the biography section of our children's room, but that it circulates widely among our adult patrons as well.

    Description from Customer Review

    Hans and Sophie Scholl:
    German Resisters of the White Rose

    By Toby Axelrod

    (Righteous Gentiles)

    During the worst years of Nazi rule, it seemed as if all of German society had lost its moral bearing. Yet with nothing personal to be gained and everything to be lost, there were heroic individuals such as the Scholls, who resisted Hitler's diabolical regime, sacrificing themselves in order to save others.

    Description from Publisher

    These books examine the lives of three people who were involved in the Nazi war on civilians during World War II. The Scholls were German siblings who helped to organize and lead the German resistance group called the White Rose. With other brave college friends, they secretly printed and disseminated a series of leaflets exposing the aims and evils of the Nazi government, resulting in their arrest, execution, and martyrdom.

    Description from School Library Journal

    Isaac Bashevis Singer:
    The Life of a Storyteller
    This is a direct, sensitive account of a great writer: his life, first in Poland and then as an immigrant in the U.S.; his stories, both for adults and children; and his celebration of the Yiddish language and culture. Perl captures a strong sense of Singer's personality, especially his self-deprecating, whimsical humor. There was nothing portentous or preachy about him, whether he was discussing his Nobel Prize for literature, dramatizing life in the shtetl, or retelling a folktale about the fools of Chelm. Perl shows that much of his writing was a blend of memoir and fiction. She quotes in full his memorable comments on children and reading, including his insistence on the pleasure of story ("Children don't read to find their identity. . . . When a book is boring, they yawn openly"). There's a chronology, a good bibliography, but no footnotes. Ruff's fine illustrations show Singer, his family, and his place in the Yiddish world.

    Description from Booklist
    Maus: Volume 1
    Maus: A Survivor's Tale
    Volume 1: My Father Bleeds History

    Maus: Volume 2
    Maus: A Survivor's Tale
    Volume 2: And Here My Troubles Began

    By Art Spiegelman
    Told with chilling realism in an unusual comic-book format, this is more than a tale of surviving the Holocaust. Spiegelman relates the effect of those events on the survivors' later years and upon the lives of the following generation. Each scene opens at the elder Spiegelman's home in Rego Park, N.Y. Art, who was born after the war, is visiting his father, Vladek, to record his experiences in Nazi-occupied Poland. The Nazis, portrayed as cats, gradually introduce increasingly repressive measures, until the Jews, drawn as mice, are systematically hunted and herded toward the Final Solution. Vladek saves himself and his wife by a combination of luck and wits, all the time enduring the torment of hunted outcast. The other theme of this book is Art's troubled adjustment to life as he, too, bears the burden of his parents' experiences. This is a complex book. It relates events which young adults, as the future architects of society, must confront, and their interest is sure to be caught by the skillful graphics and suspenseful unfolding of the story.
    From School Library Journal

    1992 Pulitzer Prize Winner

    Appropriate for High School Students -- NOT FOR YOUNG CHILDREN

    Steven Spielberg (A&E Biography Book)

    By Tom Powers
    Powers begins his biography of movie director Spielberg on the set of Schindler's List. This dramatic opening provides an interesting framework for what might have been just the standard bio. Despite his success with movies such as Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and E.T., Spielberg was never sure that he had what it took to be a serious filmmaker--nor were the critics--until Schindler's List. Spielberg's lack of confidence, even at this stage of his career, will intrigue young people who may not realize that adults are not always self-assured. The book, which details Spielberg's life and his movies, does a particularly good job of explaining the controversies that have surrounded some of the pictures, such as The Color Purple. It is also nicely designed, with plenty of black-and-white and color photographs. A filmography, a list of sources, and a bibliography are appended. Fresh subject, good treatment.

    Description from Booklist

    Steven Spielberg :
    Hollywood Filmmaker

    By Virginia Meachum
    An entry in the People to Know series about the film director and producer, from his childhood as a Jew in non-Jewish communities through his establishment of DreamWorks SKG. Although the writing is flat, the subject is inherently fascinating, which somewhat compensates.

    Description from Kirkus Reviews

    Steven Spielberg : Crazy for Movies

    By Susan Goldman Rubin
    Fans of film will revel in this behind-the-scenes look at Spielberg's childhood, movies and the choices that led to his stellar career. Rubin (Margaret Bourke-White; Frank Lloyd Wright) quotes liberally from articles plus interviews she conducted with Spielberg, his family, mentors, colleagues and actors. A portrait soon emerges of a director who drew upon his childhood fears ("of trees, of clouds, the wind, the dark," even a clown doll) to feed his tremendous imagination and who began filming his first feature-length film, Firelight, at 16. Rubin corroborates Spielberg's own assertion that each of his movie ideas originates from a childhood memory (e.g., "Poltergeist is about all the terrible things I did to my younger sisters," he says). This biography offers glimpses into the making of movies and also reveals little-known aspects of the director's journey, including how he created a 26-minute, 35-mm film called Amblin' solely to show to Universal Studios (when Universal offered him a seven-year contract to direct television shows, he left college). Family photographs and film stills help document Spielberg's progress. Ultimately, the finest special effect from this peek at the man behind Jaws, E.T., and Saving Private Ryan may be its convincing message that anything is possible when one perseveres and follows his or her dream.

    Description from Publishers Weekly

    Learning About Creativity from the Life of Steven Spielberg

    By Erin M. Hovanec
    A brief biography of the filmmaker whose creative drive has led him to make many different kinds of movies, including "Jaws," "Jurassic Park," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," and "Schindler's List."

    Description from Publisher

    Mr. Blue Jeans : A Story About Levi Strauss

    By Maryann N. Weidt
    In 1847 an eighteen-year-old immigrant arrived in New York. He had little in his pockets and no knowledge of English. However, by 1874, people throughout the United States knew him as the man who made blue jeans with copper rivets. Even now Levi Strauss's name lives on as a mark of quality and style. In Mr. Blue Jeans, Maryann N. Weidt presents the history of this hardworking man, as he struggles through long, grueling days as a peddler and challenging times as a young businessman. His honesty, integrity, and generosity stand out as clearly as his name, making this rags-to-riches story well worth reading. The accurate and highly readable text is enriched by Lydia M. Anderson's dramatic black-and-white illustrations.

    Description from Publisher

    Carefully selected details brighten an account of the industrious immigrant who became a highly successful and respected San Francisco businessman. Basic values shine stronger than the famous copper rivets in the sturdy denim pants as the story of the Strauss family and company unfolds.

    Description from Horn Book

    Kerri Strug:
    Heart of Gold

    by Kerri Strug
    Kerri Strug was the young woman who helped the U.S. women's gymnastics team win a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics. In her first book, Olympic Gold medalist Kerri Strug reveals the keys to her success in the demanding and pressure-packed world of elite gymnastics. Strug's insights will provide children with a road map for attaining a "heart of gold." Color photos & illustrations throughout.

    Description from Publisher

    A Special Fate :
    Chiune Sugihara : Hero of the Holocaust

    by Alison Leslie Gold

    (Righteous Gentile)

    The story told in Ken Mochizuki's picture book Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story is told in greater depth in this biography of the Japanese diplomat responsible for "one of the largest rescues of Jews in the Holocaust." In 1939, Chiune Sugihara was appointed vice consul to Lithuania. The following year, he and his family woke up one day to find over a hundred Jewish refugees outside the consulate, all hoping for visas that would allow them to travel through the Soviet Union to Japan-from where they planned to continue on to Cura‡ao or Shanghai. Sacrificing his career, Sugihara disobeyed his government and issued thousands of visas, ultimately saving the lives of an estimated six thousand Jews. Alison Leslie Gold's inclusion of the stories of Masha Bernstein and Solly Ganor, two Sugihara visa recipients, both children at the time, gives the biography a compelling slant for young readers. Despite occasionally stiff prose, the account remains engaging and dramatic. Photos are included, and an epilogue fills readers in on Sugihara's life after the war, including his reception, in 1985, of both Israel's Righteous Among the Nations medal and Japan's Nagasaki Peace Prize.

    Description from Horn Book

    The Miracle Visas

    By Taniuchi Yutaka

    (Righteous Gentile)

    This is the dramatic story of Sempo Sugihara, Japan's Oskar Schindler. As the Japanese Counsel General in Lithuania, he had saved over 5,000 lives from the Nazis by miraculously issuing illegal exit visas. The story is told through the eyes of a young Jewish refugee whose father worked closely with Sempo Sugihara. In a world of lessons unlearned, violence, and hatred, this is the wonderful story of a selfless man with a divine passion for humanity. This book celebrates the great miracle of life itself.

    Description from Publisher

    Hannah Szenes :
    A Song of Light
    Hannah Szenes grew up in a loving home filled with books, plays, and music. Unfortunately the rise of the Nazis in her native Hungary forced Hannah to emigrate to Palestine, where she became an ardent Zionist pioneer. Haunted by the murder of the Jews by Hitler, she risked her own life to become a resistance fighter, vowing to save as many Jewish lives as possible. As the war in Europe escalated, Szenes returned to Hungary on a mission to aid the resistance fighters, where she was arrested and executed in 1944 at age 23

    Description from Publisher

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