For kids: Fun with cats, a childs view of the Holocaust

Who lives on Ben Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv? Lots and lots of cats!

In Ann Redisch Stampler’s “The Cats on Ben Yehuda Street,” Mr. Modiano, proprietor of the Tel Aviv Fish Palace, isn’t a big fan of the furry critters. But Mrs. Spiegel, who lives next door to him in his apartment building, is crazy for them. The apartment building’s one-cat rule means she can only have one feline friend living with her; still, that doesn’t prevent a second cat from hanging around nearby.

And while neighborly Mr. Modiano brings Mrs. Spiegel a fresh fish to eat every day, the constant presence of the two fluffy animals leads him to turn down her daily invitation for tea.

Then Mrs. Spiegel’s cat goes missing, and Mr. Modiano’s loyalty and friendship shine through. The story is quiet, simple and utterly charming. The illustrations, equally charming, help give a nice window into everyday, urban Israeli life. A good read-aloud choice. Recommended for ages 3-8. — leslie a. kimmelman

It’s hard to write a gentle book about the Holocaust. However, “Odette’s Secrets” by Maryann Macdonald achieves that goal.

Writing in blank verse allows much to be said in a few words, and what is told is beautifully understated, somehow including all the basic facts as it follows a French Jewish girl from age 7 to 12.

In this aptly titled story, Odette learns at a very young age that there are secrets she must keep. Her family’s Jewish background must remain unshared, and an especially important secret to keep is that her mother is working at getting money for guns to fight the Nazis and finding hiding places for Jewish children.

One of the lucky ones, Odette escapes Paris just as the Nazis are rounding up Jews to send to concentration camps. Hidden in the countryside with a Christian family, Odette learns through personal experience that being identified as a Jew is dangerous. She must learn how to pray as a Christian and to convince her peers that she is one of them.

However, when the war ends and Odette returns to Paris, she faces many challenges as she attempts to learn who she is and where she fits in the world.

Appended to the story is a timeline, an author’s note and photographs of the real Odette Meyers on whom the story is based. Highly recommended for ages 10-14, this book would be an excellent read-aloud and would serve as a fine introduction to the history of the French Jews during World War II. — marge kaplan

“The Cats on Ben Yehuda Street”
by Ann Redisch Stampler (32 pages, Kar-Ben Publishing, $17.95)

“Odette’s Secrets” by Maryann Macdonald (224 pages, Bloomsbury, $16.99)


Reviews courtesy of Jewish Book Council