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June 5, 2010

I Have Lived a Thousand Years

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I Have Lived a Thousand Years

Author: Livia Bitton-Jackson

Page Length: 234  

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Non-Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: As the story begins, Elli Friedmann and her family live in the country of Hungary.  Although, their general store has been taken over by the Nazi’s, they do not realize the imminent hardships they are about to endure.  When her brother, Bubi, returns home from school in Budapest, his parents do not believe that the capitol city has been overtaken.  Within days, Mr. Friedmann is arrested and taken from his family.  Then, the rest of the family is sent to a ghetto for Jews.  Next, they are taken to the first of several concentration camps where they are stripped of their clothing, their bodies are shaved and they are packed into living barracks with little to eat or drink. 

For over a year, Elli and her mother are victims of Hitler’s army.  They must learn to survive through injuries, starvation, and physical abuse.

Eventually, they find Bubi who has been separated from them.  But when they are finally freed by the American army, they learn that they are three of 32 who survived from their former community of 500 families.

REVIEW:  This is a true recollection written in the first person by Livia Bitton-Jackson.  She eloquently tells of her her experience of joys as a young child and, then the terror and desperation she endures in the camps.  The book includes a family chronology of events, significant dates and events relating to the Holocaust and a glossary. 

This is a good book to use when studying the Holocaust and World War ll. 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Historical Context, Sequence of Events, Conflict, Setting, Point of View

TOUCHY AREAS: Harsh treatment in the concentration camps is described but relevant to the context of the book.

RELATED BOOKS: My Bridges of Hope, Hello, America, The Cage, Why Do They Hate Me, Parallel Journey, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Reader, Night

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: The Reader (2008), Schlinder’s List (1993), The Grey Zone (2001), The Pianist (2002), The Diary of Anne Frank (1959), Out of Ashes (2003, TV), Anne Frank (2001, TV)


 REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner


August 30, 2009

Four Perfect Pebbles A Holocaust Story

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Four Perfect Pebbles: A Holocaust Story

Author: Marion Blumenthal Lazan and Lila Perl

Page Length: 128

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Autobiographical

PLOT SUMMARY: The Nazi’s are taking over everywhere from Germany, to Poland, and even Holland. Marion and her family happen to be Jewish and become caught in the web of hatred precipitated by Hitler. Every time a ray of hope shines, darkness returns to cover it. Despite the hardships of the many camps Marion spends her childhood in, she never gives up hoping that her family will one day be reunited and find freedom. Marion believes that if she can find four perfect (identical) pebbles – they will symbolize that her family can stay together no matter how trying the times.

REVIEW: This book is a riveting read. It provides a heart wrenching recollection of just how terrifying and uncertain life as a Jew in 1930s and 1940s was for many people. The survival of the Blumenthal family is miraculous yet still not untouched by tragedy. The accounts of living conditions in the camps are vividly detailed. This book would be a good accompaniment to any study of Nazi Germany, the Holocaust and World War II. This book is a must read – because every student needs to know how dark the human soul can be and why they must learn to stand for the rights of others no matter how unpopular that may seem at the time. This book could be tied into the others about bullying – Hitler was the perfect example of a bully at full power.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: historical connections, connecting text to self, connecting text to text, cause and effect, geography, plot, character traits, timeline  (full lesson plans)

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: it’s all about Nazi Germany – the atrocities of concentration camps and the diseases that resulted from unsanitary living conditions – the author tells of the stacks of body in wagon that she mistook for firewood

RELATED BOOKS: The Diary of Anne Frank, The Book Thief,  Night, The Girl in the Red Coat, In My Hands


(1) Woody Guthrie’s 1948 “Ilsa Koch” about the horrors of the Buchenwald concentration camp: “The prisoners walk the grounds / The hounds have killed a girl / The guards have shot a man / Some more have starved to death / Here comes the prisoners’ car / They dump them in the pen / They load them down the chute / The trooper cracks their skulls.” The first English-language folk song about the Holocaust?

(2) Bob Dylan’s “With God on Our Side” from his 1964 album The Times They Are A-Changin’ made reference to the Holocaust and the Cold War: “When the Second World War / Came to an end / We forgave the Germans / And we were friends / Though they murdered six million / In the ovens they fried / The Germans now too / Have God on their side.”

(3) Captain Beefheart’s 1969 “Dachau Blues” is growling, atonal, and sharp: “Dachau blues, those poor Jews / Dachau blues, those poor Jews … One madman, six million lose.”

(4) Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys’ 1973 “Ride ‘Em Jewboy” is a haunting country-and-western tribute to Holocaust victims: “Dead limbs play with ringless fingers / A melody which burns you deep inside / Oh, how the song becomes the singers / May peace be ever with you as you ride.”

(5) Rush’s “Red Sector A” is probably the best-known Holocaust rock song. It appeared on the band’s 1984 smash album Grace Under Pressure. The seeds for this harrowing rocker were planted by the liberation of lead-singer Geddy Lee’s mother from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp: “I hear the sound of gunfire at the prison gate / Are the liberators here? / Do I hope or do I fear? / For my father and my brother, it’s too late / But I must help my mother stand up straight.”

(6) The Indigo Girls’ 1994 “This Train Revised” careens like a hell-bound express: “It’s a fish white belly / A lump in the throat / Razor on the wire / Skin and bone / Piss and blood in a railroad car / 100 people / Gypsies, queers, and David’s star / This train is bound for glory / This train is bound for glory …”

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Anne Frank, Fateless, Schindler’s List


REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

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