________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 2. . . .September 13, 2013


Pieces of the Past: The Holocaust Diary of Rose Rabinowitz. (Dear Canada).

Carol Matas.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2013.
163 pp., hardcover & EBK, $16.99 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4431-1307-6 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4431-2456-0 (EBK).

Subject Headings:
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)-Juvenile fiction.
Jewish children in the Holocaust-Juvenile fiction.
Holocaust survivors-Juvenile fiction.
Immigrant children-Canada-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Meredith Harrison-Lim.

***1/2 /4.



Saturday, January 3, 1948

My not-father, Saul, handed me a diary. This diary. “For you,” he said, “so you can write down," he paused for the word, “what happened. Maybe some day you’ll even want to talk about it to me and to Rita.”

I didn’t laugh out loud when he said that, but frankly, I can never imagine such a time. On the other hand, this little book seems far too small to write down “what happened.” How will I ever fit what is stuffed into my head into these tiny pages, all the wild waking nightmares tamed onto these straight lines…


Rose (Rozia) Rabinowitz is a 13-year old orphan who lives with a foster family in Winnipeg, MB. The story begins with her foster father, Saul, giving her a diary to record her memories from World War II. He believes the process may prove to be therapeutic. While doubtful, Rose begins to use the diary to recount her memories from the war and her day-to-day experiences in her new home.

     Rose was born to a Jewish family in Poland in 1935. She survived the Nazi regime by escaping the ghetto with her mother in 1942 only to spend the next two years in various hiding places. They endured hunger, lice, and sickness as well as the deaths of her family. At the end of the war, she immigrated to Canada with a group of other Jewish orphans.

     However, her new life in Canada contained struggles as well, struggles which she also records in her diary. These issues include feelings of loneliness, experiencing unwelcoming foster homes, and interactions with bullies.

     This work of historical fiction does a wonderful job of describing the experiences of a Jewish child in hiding during the Second World War. Rose’s account is moving, especially as she documents the deaths and disappearances of her family members. An example is the disappearance of Rose’s sister, of whom there are still so many unknown details. Rose, like other survivors, will have to live with the pain of having experienced loss and yet not truly knowing what has happened to her loved ones.

      The language used and the writing style are very appropriate for the youth audience. While the realities of the Holocaust are not softened, Rose’s diary is not heavy-handed in its approach to the Holocaust. Rose’s reflections are both of the war and of everyday events such that younger readers will identify with Rose as a human being and learn about the tragedy of the Holocaust.

     Finally, at the end of the book, there is a historical section that provides an overview of topics which were touched on in Rose’s diary. These topics include: the Holocaust in Poland, the Warsaw Ghetto and Uprising, the Resistance Movement, as well as hidden children and emigration. A timeline of the Warsaw Ghetto, 12 black and white photographs, and additional related documents from the war are also included, all of which may prove interesting to readers. While, overall, the book is more appropriate for recreational reading, these details would provide additional value in a classroom setting.

     Pieces of the Past: The Holocaust Diary of Rose Rabinowitz is a very worthwhile addition to a library’s collection. It provides an accessible, yet mature, look at the life of a young Holocaust survivor and could aid students’ understanding of what it would be like to live through the events of the Holocaust.

Highly Recommended.

Meredith Harrison-Lim is a MLIS graduate working for the Federal Government in the National Capital Region.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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