Mendel is a children’s book that gently introduces the subject of the Holocaust to children.
In Mendel, a father tells his two children the story of a Jewish boy who lived in Poland during the second world war. Each night after he tucks his children in, Father sits on the edge of the bed and begins his story about Papa, Mama and their three boys. It is, as you may have guessed, his own story.
The book is based on the life story of the author’s father, Manny Steinberg. Together with his father and brother, Manny Steinberg managed to survive four Nazi camps.
Mendel by Anita Lavi takes you from a quiet, loving and warm family home, to being put into trucks, and living in camps. Being reunited after the war, the family ultimately emigrates to the US, arriving to be greeted by Lady Liberty in New York harbor.
The tone of the book is simple, but poignant and gentle which makes it suitable for children aged circa 8 to 11. Mendel is written to teach without frightening. The emphasis is very much on strength of family.
The author stresses the importance of family, hope and love. The book has been illustrated with pencil drawings by Caroline Juler that beautifully depict the mood and era of the story.
Anita Lavi on writing Mendel: a Holocaust story for Children
“A few years ago, I helped my dad re-write his book Outcry – Holocaust Memoirs. The collaboration not only brought us closer in understanding one another, but helped me realize that I had a passion for writing. In April, 2015 I traveled with my father (Manny Steinberg) to Germany for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Vaihingen Concentration Camp. The small city invited survivors and their families to their quaint town to celebrate life and pay tribute to the people who once suffered at the hands of their countrymen and forefathers. It was an emotional trip to say the least, but my dad endured it at 90 years of age.
One of the events that we attended, was at a local high school where students asked questions of the survivors. I thought to myself, there in a room filled with 15 – 17 year old kids asking so many questions; how do we as parents and grandparents explain the holocaust to younger children? I thought about it for several days and when I sat down to write, the words came flooding to me. I remembered when I was a little girl, my dad telling me bedtime stories and all about the young boy and his family who once lived in Radom, Poland.”
Praise for Mendel
“Passing along family history and the simple lessons of life to our children is maybe the most important responsibility parents have. Perhaps the most challenging lessons are those that deal with reality and the fact that bad things happen and children need to know this without scaring them.
If your family is Jewish, this a great book to start to teach the kids in a gentle way some of the more difficult parts of history. It is an excellent tool to generate healthy questions and discussions.”
The drawings are great punctuations in the story and themselves a great way to engage children and let them talk about what they see. Read this book to your children and then have a chat about Mendel and his family and then talk about your family.”
Mendel is available in English (eBook and Print-on-Demand paperback), and in French.