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The Secret of the Village Fool
By author: Rebecca Upjohn   Illustrated by: Renne Benoit
Selling Points: the Holocaust, racism, bravery
Publisher: Second Story Press
Pub Date: Sep/01/2012
Pages: 32
Picture Book
Price:  $18.95
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Milek and his brother Munio live in a sleepy village in Poland, where nothing exciting seems to happen. They reluctantly do as their mother asks when she asks them to visit their neighbor Anton, knowing that the rest of the village laughs at him because of his strange habits of speaking to animals and only eating vegetables. Things change quickly when war comes to their town in the form of Nazi soldiers searching for Jewish families like that of Milek and Munio. Anton refuses to tell the soldiers where to find them, and then goes so far as to hide the family in his own home, putting his life at risk without a thought. Based on a true story.
Southwest Ohio and Neighboring Libraries (SWON) - February 6, 2013
"[This] poignant true story is related with expressive soft illustrations. Children today will learn much of the tragedy of the Holocaust with this story."
Resource Links - December 1, 2012
"An excellent spring board in understanding oppression and social justice, humanitarianism, the Holocaust in World War II and the courage of people to stand up and fight for right."
CM Magazine - October 5, 2012
"Read like a picture book, with thought-provoking and reflective coloured illustrations by award-winning illustrator Renné Benoit, this story is based on true events. Intended for a younger elementary school age audience, The Secret of the Village Fool could be read in a classroom, or with a caregiver, leading to a discussion of the Holocaust. The content is delivered in easy to understand and compassionate language."
Publishers Weekly - September 17, 2012
"Upjohn...shines. With a reporter's eye for action and detail, she brings alive the horror, deprivation, and even boredom that the hidden Jews face while Anton, who never sheds his oddness, bravely denies their presence to both the Germans and the anti-Semitic villagers."
Kirkus Reviews - September 15, 2012
"Upjohn makes this true story personal, immediate and accessible without resorting to bathos or sentimentality. Benoit's sepia-tinted, ominously shadowed illustrations convey darkness, fear and uncertainty...Powerful and deeply moving."
Canadian Teacher Magazine - September 1, 2012
"Beautiful, evocative illustrations painted in a subdued palette mirror the tone of the story...Because it is a true story and provides photographs of the people involved in an Afterword, young readers will be likely to make connections to their own lives and families."

Awards

CCBC Best Books, commended  CA  2013
Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Books of the Year, commended  US  2013
Silver Birch Express Award nominee, short-listed  CA  2014



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