Erika's Story
Erika's Story

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Annotation: A woman recalls how she was thrown from a train headed for a Nazi death camp in 1944, raised by someone who risked her own life to save the baby's, and finally found some peace through her own family.
Genre: World history
Catalog Number: #90422
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition Date: 2003
Illustrator: Innocenti, Roberto,
Pages: 24
Availability: Special Order Only - Contact Customer Service at +1 800 637-6581 or +1 217 243-5451
ISBN: Publisher: 1-568-46176-3 Perma-Bound: 0-605-54317-8
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-568-46176-2 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-54317-1
Dewey: 940.53
LCCN: 2002073830
Dimensions: 25 x 26 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
My mother threw me from the train. A Jewish woman in Germany today tells how, as an infant, she survived the Holocaust after she was thrown from a train on its way to the camps in 1944 and was taken in and raised by a village woman. The survivor imagines her parents in the ghetto and transports. Did they hold her close and kiss her before throwing her away to save her life? Innocenti, who did the Holocaust picture book Rose Blanche (1991), dramatizes the horror in amazingly detailed photo-like illustrations with an overlay of surreal imagery: a small baby carriage stands on the platform as the Jews are being loaded into the cattle cars; wrapped in bright pink, a baby flies through the air as the train hurtles through pastoral landscapes. The clear, tiny details dramatize both the fragility and the endurance of the infant survivor, as well as the bizarre calm of the normal world. Is the woman's story true? The experience is certainly known to have happened to some babies.
Horn Book
In this effective introduction to the Holocaust, the author tells the story of a woman she happened to meet in Germany in 1995. "Erika" knew nothing of her origins except that, as an infant, she was thrown from a train en route to a concentration camp. The spare, straightforward narrative effectively complements the handsomely composed, photorealistic black-and-white paintings.
Publishers Weekly

This picture book may raise more questions than it answers, starting with the five-pointed die-cut star on the cover, a window to the yellow page beneath. Is this supposed to be a reference to the Star of David, like the one worn by Erika, whom the author (in an author's note) claims to have met in a German village in 1995 and whose story she purports to tell here? Erika believes she was a few months old when she was thrown from a train bound for Dachau and saved by a kind and courageous woman. Her Erika is caught in lengthy conjecture about her parents and their tragic plight. Of her rescuer and of her own life Erika says little, other than the critical news that she has children and grandchildren, and that her star "still shines." (Perhaps this is what's meant by the cover?) Vander Zee has more the beginnings of a story than a nuanced work, but Innocenti (Rose Blanche) lives up to his admirers' expectations with his haunting, even harrowing drawings. Grim black-and-white illustrations show adults and children entering cattle cars, their faces blocked by headscarves or by the barrier reading "Verboten"; the German soldiers present only their impervious backs to readers. As the train pulls out, Innocenti imagines a snow-white baby carriage left by the track, its emptiness speaking volumes. With other images, both real and nightmarish, the art conveys a measure of the anguish of the Nazi victims' vulnerability. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)

School Library Journal
Gr 3 Up-Vander Zee narrates this true story in the voice of Erika, a woman she encountered in a German village, who, as a blanket-wrapped infant, was thrown from a cattle car bound for a concentration camp in 1944. ("On her way to death, my mother threw me to life.") A German woman risked her own life to raise Erika, who eventually married and had children of her own. ("Today my tree once again has roots.") The spare, eloquent text perfectly complements Innocenti's gray and beige photo-realistic illustrations that show haunting, finely detailed, sterile winter scenes of train cars, tracks, and cold brick-and-stone buildings surrounded by barbed wire. On other pages, a white baby carriage and the small pink bundle catch the eye. Only the contemporary opening scene and the final postwar spread are in full color. Compelling and powerful in its simplicity, Erika's story proves that determination, hope, and goodness can overcome evil. Stars are important to this story. Yellow Stars of David are visible on the people's clothing and the symbol appears on every page, separating Erika's thoughts. She mentions God's biblical promise to Abraham that his people "would be as many as the stars in the heavens," and that "six million of those stars fell between 1933 and 1945." The large die-cut yellow pentagram on the front cover is a jarring exception to the carefully crafted text and illustrations. This poignant story of survival deserves a wide audience.-Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Reviewing Agencies: - Find Other Reviewed Titles
Horn Book (4/1/04)
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Publishers Weekly
ALA Booklist (11/1/03)
School Library Journal
Word Count: 894
Reading Level: 4.1
Interest Level: 3-6
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.1 / points: 0.5 / quiz: 72318 / grade: Middle Grades

A Jewish woman recounts how her mother was able to spare her from the horrors of the Holocaust as an infant.

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