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Benno and the Night of Broken Glass (Holocaust) Paperback – January 1, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 3–5—Through the eyes of an orange and white cat, readers are introduced to the harrowing event known as Kristallnacht. Benno spends his days observing the friendly, predictable rituals in his neighborhood: girls walking together to school, shopkeepers selling their wares, a Jewish family eating Sabbath dinner, a Christian family eating Sunday lunch. Then one night, he sees brown-shirted men breaking down doors, smashing shop windows, and setting fire to books and buildings. Jewish families disappear, and even though the people that remain resume their normal activities, nothing is ever quite the same again. The straightforward text describes events without sentimentality, as if Benno were simply reporting what he sees and hears. "In Apartment 3B, the mob was breaking the Adlers' furniture and throwing books out the window…. The Schmidts' apartment was untouched." But what truly distinguishes this book is the striking multimedia artwork composed of paper, fabric, and drawn images in hues of olive, brown, and red. Interesting angles, textures, and patterns add to the visual effect throughout. The spreads depict a normal city neighborhood from a cat's-eye view, which is eventually upended by dark shadowy figures with big black boots. Thus the message of terror and sadness that marks the beginning of the Holocaust is transmitted in a way that is both meaningful and comprehensible. An afterword provides historical context for the story, although it presupposes knowledge of the term "Holocaust." Use this book with Karen Hesse's The Cats in Krasinski Square (Scholastic, 2004) for further discussion of the topic. For all collections.—Teri Markson, Los Angeles Public Library
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. --This text refers to the School & Library Binding edition.

From Booklist

It is not easy to tell young kids the horrifying truth about the Holocaust, but this picture book is a good place to start. Using the fictionalized viewpoint of a cat, Benno, it shows what happened to families in one Berlin community. Benno feels welcome in many homes and stores, and he likes following a Jewish girl, Sophie, and her Christian friend to school everyday. Then everything changes, and the neighborhood is no longer friendly. Benno cowers as terrifying men in brown shirts light bonfires, and then there is a night “like no other,” during which Benno hears screams and shattering glass, and he watches apartments being ravaged and the synagogue burn. The next day, life continues for some, but Benno never sees others again, including Sophie and her family. The unframed, double-page spreads, created with a mix of collage, drawings, and digital montage, show the warm neighborhood transformed as red flames take over, books fly, and soldiers march in black boots with razor-edged soles. A brief afterword and bibliography add more information and historical context. Grades 2-5. --Hazel Rochman --This text refers to the School & Library Binding edition.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 and up
  • Grade Level: 1 and up
  • Series: Holocaust
  • Paperback: 28 pages
  • Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing (January 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822599759
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822599753
  • Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 8.7 x 0.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #576,109 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Benno was a mottled orange and white cat who lived at Number 5 Rosenstrasse. He was curled up in the window for everyone to admire, for you see he belonged to everyone in the neighborhood. Hans the Hausmeister made sure he had a warm, cozy bed to cuddle up in at night and some "fresh milk" to soothe his tummy. If he rounded the corner past the street light he would pass Gerber's Grocery to the end of the block where Mitzi Stein's dress shop was, zig zag this way and that he would find himself at Neue Synagogue. Such was the makeup of his neighborhood, but it was his people that he tended to that he was known for.

On the Sabbath it was time to visit the Adler family in 3A. The candles were lit and young Sophie would sing before she "fed him scraps of chicken." On Sundays it was time to visit the Schmidts across the hall where Inge, Sophie's friend, "sneaked bits of schnitzel to him under the table." When the girls were off to school he would wend his way around the neighborhood to get his ears scratched, his nose rubbed or take at nap at Mitzi's. Everyone loved him, including Professor Goldfarb in 2G. Who didn't even seem to notice when he curled up on top of his papers. Such was the life of a mottled orange and white cat named Benno who lived in Berlin.

Something was wrong when those who once had time for him no longer cared or shooed him away abruptly. There were bright orange and red flames that spread eerie shadows along the brick walls of the neighborhood and lit up the night and books were added to fuel the fire. People were somehow not where they were supposed to be and faces were downcast, sad and frightened.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sandra on June 1, 2013
Format: Paperback
Obviously, some topics are best reserved for an older audience. Thus deciding when to include the topic of the Holocaust can be a controversial. I was surprised that the librarians at my local public library chose not to place Benno and the Night of the Broken Glass in the juvenile picture book section. Instead the book was placed among the chapter books. I needed the help of a librarian to find the book.

Looking at the cover, a reader would instantly think it was designed for a younger audience. A harmless prancing cat is seen in front of broken pane of glass. Without knowing that the term "the Night of the Broken Glass" refers to Kristallnacht, it would be impossible to realize that the content of the book revolves around the start of the Holocaust. Kristallnacht, the beginning of the Holocaust, occurred on November 9 &10, 1938. The terror and violence that affected almost all of the Jews in Germany was an extreme reaction to the assassination of a German official. Approximately, 100 Jews were killed, 7,500 Jewish-owned businesses were destroyed, and 30,000 arrests were made.

Using this point in history, Meg creates a story that weaves together factual elements from Kristallnacht with fictional characters and a curious cat named Beeno. The Jewish and Gentile characters of the story are introduced as Beeno wanders around a Jewish neighborhood near the Neue Synagogue in Berlin. The peaceful nature of the community in the days prior to Kristallnacht are contrasted with the chaos that occurred as a result of Kristallnacht. Josee's pictures show how the lives of the main characters were changed. An afterward and a bibliography provide useful information to anyone who wants to learn more details about Kristallnacht.

This book is well suited as an introduction to the Holocaust for upper elementary and middle school students.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dienne TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 2, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book is a good introduction to the Holocaust for younger children. By using the (fictional) story of Benno the Cat, the book comes at the Holocaust from an oblique angle that allows a bit of protective distance for younger kids who may still be too sensitive to learn about the Holocaust more directly.

Benno the Cat lives in an apartment building where he wanders freely among the apartments. The inhabitants of the apartments are a mixed bunch, including both Germans and Jews, who seem to get along quite well together. The German girl Inge and her Jewish friend Sophie walk to school and play games together. All the residents, and all of the business owners on Rosenstrasse, welcome Benno and care for him, from the grocer's wife Frau Gerber who scratches his ears to Mitzi Stein the dressmaker who lets him sleep in her shop window. Life is very pleasant.

But then things take an unpleasant turn. People shoo him out of their apartments and stores. They no longer have scraps for him or the time to scratch him. The have other concerns and worries. Inge and Sophie don't play together any more. Then one night the sounds of screams and breaking glass fill the air. Shops - at least certain ones - are destroyed and looted by men with brown shirts and heavy black boots. The Neue Synagogue is set on fire. Herr Goldfarb is dragged away in the night, trying to protect his books.

In the morning, Benno waits for life to return to normal. But Sophie's family's apartment is locked. Herr Goldfarb doesn't come back. The butcher is never seen again. But Frau Gerber still scratches his ears and Inge still leaves for school every day.
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