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Stories from the past to inspire future generations


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Mar 22, 2024
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The Last Stand by Antwan Eady, illustrated by Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 40 pages, ages 4-8). A boy tells the story of his grandfather’s farm stand, the last stand in a community where there used to be a whole farmers’ market. Not only does Papa grow food and sell it at his stand, but he delivers to neighbors who can’t get out. The day comes when Papa is the one who isn’t well enough to go to the stand, and the boy has to use his own resourcefulness to keep the business going. Fast forward a few years, and the last page shows the boy grown, Papa apparently having passed away, and another stand re-opened, offering hope that the market can come back again.

I’m thrilled to see a new book illustrated by the Pumphrey brothers, almost as thrilled as I was when they won a Caldecott Honor this year for There Was a Party for Langston. This story harkens back to my favorite book of theirs, The Old Truck, with its empowering themes of Black farmers surviving despite the odds being stacked against them and passing a legacy down to the next generation. Be sure to read the author’s note to learn more about the struggles of Black farmers, as well as offering an acknowledgement of discrimination against other farmers, including women and Indigenous communities.

Tree of Life: How a Holocaust Sapling Inspired the World by Elisa Boxer, illustrated by Alianna Rozentsveig (Rocky Pond Books, 40 pages, grades 1-4). In the Czechoslovakian ghetto of Terezin, a teacher named Irma Lauscher secretly taught children to read, write, and celebrate Jewish holidays. To help them observe Tu Bishvat (The New Year of the Trees), she obtained a maple sapling, putting herself and the prisoner who got it for her at enormous risk. The children shared their water rations with the sapling, watching it grow, until many of them were “taken away on trains to a place that was even worse.” Miraculously, the tree grew and flourished until the end of the war when it was five feet tall. Eventually it grew to sixty feet, and Irma Lauscher, who also miraculously survived, sent seeds from the tree to places around the globe. When the tree finally died in 2007, there were 600 descendants all over the world, including one planted outside New York City’s Museum of Jewish Heritage in 2021.

Elise Boxer’s author’s note also adds context to this story of brave people finding hope in tragedy, and offers additional information about Terezin, a Nazi propaganda camp that sent most of its inhabitants to Auschwitz. It includes the chilling statistic that 90% of Europe’s Jewish children were killed in the Holocaust, serving as a timely reminder of the horrors of war in which the innocent are victims. I hope this will be a contender for the Sydney Taylor award.
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