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  •  2016 Comstock Read Aloud Honor Books

    Jars of Hope

    Jars of Hope: How One Woman Helped Save 2,500 Children During the Holocaustwritten by Jennifer Roy, illustrated by Meg Owenson, and published by Capstone, 2015.

    When people discuss the Holocaust, they typically focus on the horrific acts committed during the war. They occasionally forget the heroic acts committed by everyday people during this troubled time.  Irena Sendler was only a child when she discovered the terrible ways Jewish people, especially children, were treated in Poland.  Later, Irena became a social worker in the Warsaw Ghetto to help the Jewish people in their time of need.  She realized that if the children were to survive they would need to be relocated to foster families outside the Ghetto. Irena and her friends took many risks to help these Jewish children escape, but they were eventually caught and sent to prison. Irena kept a record of each child’s name and their family so they could be reunited after the war. Irena and her friends buried the children’s names in jars of hope for safe keeping.

    This true story captivated readers ages nine and up with its painted illustrations and the courageous acts performed during the Holocaust.  One teacher commented that “Roy took a difficult topic and presented it in a way students could relate to.” Many children asked questions about World War II and wanted to know more about it after the book was read. Students did not want the story to end and asked for it to be read over again and again. Lastly, they noted the themes of courage and self-sacrifice in the book.

    Jennifer Roy is an established children’s writer who focuses on tough subjects such as living with a disability or the Holocaust. She currently resides in Saratoga Springs, New York, with her family. Meg Owenson is a skilled Illustrator and concept artist who lives in Scarborough, UK. She has worked with a variety of mediums ranging from video games to clothing. (SADIE HERMAN)


    Tucky Jo and Little Heart

    Tucky Jo and Little Heart written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco, and published by Simon & Schuster, 2015.

    Kentucky Jon is a young American soldier who ends up in a thick jungle in the Philippines during World War II. He meets a young village girl who calls him Tucky Jo. She has a heart-shaped birthmark on her arm, so he calls her Little Heart. The two form a special friendship and spend time together nearly every day. Tucky Jo earns the trust of Little Heart’s family and the other villagers by being kind to Little Heart and by bringing food and treats for everyone. The villagers also provide something to Tucky Jo. He is away from his family and misses them terribly. Little Heart and her people make him feel like he is at home, surrounded by his “kinfolk.” One day, the enemy moves into their jungle. Tucky Jo gets permission from his sergeant to save Little Heart and the people in her village. As the villagers are taken to safety in a truck, Little Heart and Tucky Jo are saddened at losing their friendship. Will they ever see each other again?

    As a professional artist, Patricia Polacco illustrates each of her books using vivid colors and emotion-filled images that help portray the depth of her stories. Both children and adults appreciated the illustrations and commented on the wonderful addition of emotion and realistic scenery to help the reader understand this story.

    The book appealed to fourth and fifth-grade classes. Students listened intently, asking questions about some of the language and commenting on the emotional story with both happy and sad parts. They appreciated that this story is based on a real person and events that actually happened.

    Patricia Polacco has written and illustrated nearly 60 children’s books including Fiona’s Lace, The Blessing Cup, and The Keeping Quilt.  In 2012, she was awarded the Regina Medal for distinguished contributions to children’s literature. Polacco lives in Union City, Michigan. (ERIKA FISCHER)