a gentle and soft introduction to holocaust literature

let the celebrations begin 337x401 .jpg

by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Julie Vivas - Walker Books Australia, 2013 (first edition 1991)
ages 4 to grown-up / diversity, powerful lives

Our very well-worn copy of this book has an inscription on the fly-leaf that reads:

"Fulcher 5/3/92 - a book to make car accidents unimportant."

I can only vaguely recall the car accident.  We were on our way to the Queensland Museum when I had a smallish bingle - I don’t remember who was to blame or how it happened. I do remember that we went to the museum anyway and found this book in the museum bookshop. While the accident is barely a dim memory, the impact of the book is ever-fresh and ongoing. There's a part in the book that says:

a small collection of stuffed toys has been preserved which were made by Polish women in Belsen for the first children’s party held after the liberation’. 

And essentially that’s the story.

I couldn’t begin to guess the number of times I have read this book aloud.

Interestingly, I've read it to groups of adults and been met with a vacuum of silence as they processed the message and the story - and I’ve read it over and over again to groups of children or to just one child and been met instead with a barrage of questions.

While Let the Celebrations BEGIN! is a gentle and soft introduction to Holocaust literature, it is more than that—it’s also a gateway to stories about rising above extremities and putting the happiness of others above one’s own needs when the circumstances call for it.

It’s ageless. Julie Vivas does such a beautiful job of softening the edges of cruelty with her signature illustrations and Margaret Wild has crafted her words so very sparingly and carefully that it can be safely read to a 2 or 3-year-old. But it will bring a somewhat obnoxious teen into line at the same time.

Can you tell I love this book? For some reason it has never really become part of the canon of children’s books—perhaps the subject matter is confronting for the adult reader. 

But I think there are few better ways to plant notions of empathy, courage, and resilience in children than by reading and rereading this book as a child grows. Definitely a book to have in your home library, Let the Celebrations BEGIN! relates to so many sets of circumstances.