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

4.7 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 2–5—Benno the cat compares the difference in life on Rosenstrasse in Berlin, before and after Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass). He notices the changes in behavior between Christian and Jew, the harsh behavior of the Nazis, and the damage to Jewish properties and removal of Jews from the area. Narrated by Susie Berneis, the book opens and closes with piano music. Liberal use of sound effects such as crackling fire, city traffic, and crashing glass add to the intensity and forward motion of the book. A double-edged sword, the sounds don't always align with the text (for example, at one point listeners hear fire crackling in the background instead of "sounds of people above") and are conspicuously missing when there is no background sound. Berneis's careful, slow reading pace reflects Benno's observing of his world as it changes. She quickens her pace and pitch slightly as the drama of the attack on Jews occurs, returning to an eerie calm of the new normal life after. VERDICT This work provides a gentle overview and entry to discuss the start of the Holocaust with children.—Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH --This text refers to the Audio CD 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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 3 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: 1 - 3
  • Series: Holocaust
  • Paperback: 28 pages
  • Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing; 01-Apr-10 edition (January 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822599759
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822599753
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 0.1 x 10.2 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: #359,952 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top 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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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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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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