To prepare Bookworm for modern history at the National History Bee, we’ve temporarily switched over to Tapestry of Grace for history.

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One of the recommended books for World War II and the Holocaust was the fiction book, A Father’s Promise by Donnalynn Hess.

This book tells the story of a widower, Jakob Kaplan, and his young son, Rudi.  Jakob was born a Jew, but when he studied medicine in Sweden, he became a Christian and married a Swedish woman.  Still, in 1939 Poland, where the Kaplans live, that means little.  In the eyes of the Nazis, both father and son are still considered Jewish.

For a few months after the Nazis take power in Poland, Rudi and Jakob are okay, even though the Nazis kick them and all of their neighbors out of their houses so they can live there.  When Jakob is relieved of his job as a physician, despite the lack of physicians in Warsaw, he knows he’s in danger and sends Rudi alone into the woods to survive and hide during the war.  Just a day later, Jakob is picked up by the Nazis and sent to a work camp.

Rudi goes into the woods in late 1939, and his life is one adventure after another after that.  The Nazis will stop at nothing, including regularly searching the forest, to find Jews who may be hiding.  Rudi’s ingenuity and cleverness are amazing.

This book, which is targeted for readers ages 9 to 12, does an excellent job setting the dark mood of the war and giving just enough details for younger kids to know that the Nazis were brutal without actually going too far into detail.  In that way, this book is a good introduction to the Holocaust.

My Opinion of the Book

I like this book as a more gentle introduction to the Holocaust while still setting the tone of terror.

Each chapter has a Bible verse at the top, and Jakob and Rudi are very strongly Christian.  I had no trouble with any of this; I imagine someone going through such a terrifying situation would need their faith more than ever.

However, Jakob and Rudi regularly work to convert their Jewish friends, the Serduseks, to Christianity.  That was the part of the book that I disliked.  I want to teach my children to have respect for other religions even if they may not agree with those religions.  If the Serduseks had asked the Kaplans about Christianity, I would not have minded, but instead it was Rudi and his father continually trying to convert them.  That part rubbed me the wrong way.

This book gets 4 out of 5 stars on the Mom’s Plans’ scale.

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