Great Illustrated Books

Hidden Child

By Isaac Millman

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), 2005
Pages : 80
Suggested Ages: 9 and Up
ISBN: 0374330719

The very first page of this astonishing, harrowing, and heartbreaking memoir by children's book author/illustrator, Isaac Millman, will grip readers. In the middle of the large, stark white page is a 2"x3" snapshot of a little boy dressed in winter gear, standing on the pavement, with a toy car by his boots. Above it is a statement: "Approximately 1,200,000 Jewish children were deported and murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators in the Holocaust of World War II. Most of those who survived did so by being sent into hiding. Some were hidden with other Jews. Some went into convents and monasteries; others were hidden on farms or taken in by non-Jewish families and individuals. My name is Isaac Sztrymfman, and I was a hidden child."

Turn the page and Isaac's idyllic early world unfolds in a full-color, double-page illustration, done in pencil and soft, sepia-toned watercolors, like a scrapbook with inset snapshot-like paintings of Isaac and his parents in Paris. At the bottom of the page, the mood changes drastically. Against a blood red background is a drawing of the German army parading down the Champs-Elysée, and a portrait of Isaac and his parents, superimposed against the background of a large yellow star. Isaac was a happy little boy growing up with his parents in Paris until the Germans invaded in 1940, when he was seven. As restrictions for Jews in Paris widened, his father was sent to an internment camp. Isaac and his mother attempted to escape to the free French zone, only to be captured by a German soldier and jailed. After his mother bribed a guard, Isaac was first taken to a hospital and then to the home of his mother's friend, who refused to take him in. Sitting, crying, on the sidewalk, he met Héna, a Polish-born Jew like him, who arranged to have him looked after by a series of caretakers until the war ended.

The first-person, dialogue-filled reminiscences about his experiences incorporate a social history of the times and include many of Millman's own black and white photographs. Interspersed between the short chapters are 11 more of his exquisitely detailed spreads, captioned color montages of his memories. Each conveys the wrenching emotional impact of losing his parents and being shunted from one place to the next, but also recognizes the courage of those who took him in, from the doctors and nurses in the children's ward at the hospital to a kind widow in a small village in the countryside who treated him like a son.

In 1948, at age 15, he emigrated to America, one of only three survivors in his extended family. In an afterword, Millman details the fate of his parents, who both died in Auschwitz. In the U.S., he was adopted by the Millman family, went to college, married Héna's granddaughter, Jeanine, and had two children. Readers will be intrigued to compare his own story with the picture books he has written and illustrated, including Moses Goes to a Concert. This will be an important book for the Holocaust curriculum in schools, as it provides a firsthand account of what happened to ordinary people, including children, during World War II. In The Journey That Saved Curious George about famous picture book author/illustrators, H. A. and Margaret Ray, author Louise Borden describes their fortunate escape from Paris to America at the same time.

Reviewed by : JF.


If you love this book, then try:

Abels, Chana Byers. The Children We Remember. Greenwillow, 1986.

Borden, Louise. The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margaret and H. A. Rey. Houghton Mifflin, 2005.

Couloumbis, Audrey and Akila Couloumbis. War Games: A Novel Based on a True Story. Random House, 2009.

Foreman, Michael. War Boy. Arcade, 1990.

Gold, Alison Leslie. Memories of Anne Frank: Reflections of a Childhood Friend. Scholastic, 1997.

Hoestlandt, Jo. Star of Fear, Star of Hope. Walker, 1995.

Isaacman, Clara. Clara's Story. Jewish Publication Society, 1984.

Levine, Karen. Hana's Suitcase. Albert Whitman, 2003.

Lowry, Lois. Number the Stars. Houghton, 1989.

Maguire, Gregory. The Good Liar. Clarion, 1999.

Mazer, Norma Fox. Good Night, Maman. Harcourt, 1999.

McCann, Michelle R. Luba: The Angel of Bergen-Belsen. Tricycle, 2003.

Metselaar, Menno, and Ruud van der Rol. Anne Frank: Her Life in Words and Pictures. Roaring Brook/Flash Point, 2009.

Millman, Isaac. Moses Goes to a Concert. Farrar, 1998.

Polacco, Patricia. The Butterfly. Philomel, 2000.

Poole, Josephine. Anne Frank. Knopf, 2005.

Propp, Vera. When the Soldiers Were Gone. Putnam, 1999.

Reiss, Johanna. The Upstairs Room. HarperCollins, 1987.

Roy, Jennifer. Yellow Star. Marshall Cavendish, 2006.

Rubin, Susan Goldman. The Flag with Fifty-Six Stars: A Gift from the Survivors of Mauthausen. Holiday House, 2005.

Critics have said

Millman's telling is quiet, but his understated art reveals terrible memories, including the wrenching images of Papa waving good-bye from behind barbed wire and Mama bribing a prison guard to take him away. This poignant account is a must for the Holocaust curriculum, and it will grab readers older than the target audience--including adults.