Why is Great-Grandma So Sad by Susan Heagy

Book description:

Though this book is written for children ages 7 to 14, it is also intended for any age of people who have difficulty reading anything having to do with the Holocaust of WWII. This story is presented from the personal perspective of a family in the midst of the Holocaust, without trauma but historically correct. Sarah, at the age of seven, does not understand the extreme sadness her great grandmother portrays, prompting her to ask her mother the question, Why is Great Grandma so sad? Her mother decides it is time to relate the Holocaust experience of Great Grandma Hannah beginning at the same age as Sarah. This story gives an account of a family experiencing the onset of WWII, ghetto life, being sent to a concentration camp and the unusual circumstances surrounding their struggle to survive. Through the dialog Sarah comes to have a new view of her great grandmother, Hannah, as a child. Hannah, through necessity, grows up all too quickly. But while she endures these changes and experiences and during times of hiding, her doll Rachael is always there as a confidant and constant companion in her loneliness. She hears also of an unbelievable time when the Jewish people were treated horribly and unfairly. Sarah comes to realize how the Jews, her own people, demonstrated strength and resilience when under pressure, determined to survive. This story brings to life the sadness, and the hope, tightly interwoven in the lives of those who survived the Holocaust culminating with a surprise ending. Throughout this dialog Sarah learns along with the child Hannah about a time in history no one should ever forget. It is the hope of the author that those reading this book will also learn the truth of that time and not allow the voices of those who experienced it to be silenced. This story of Great Grandma is historical fiction. The family is not real but the experiences are. Based on several Survivors of the Shoah, their true life war accounts are included in the book.

My review:

This book does a great job of introducing children – the target audience is children ages 7 – 14 – to the Holocaust in a way that is informative, yet not too graphic. Heagy does not sugarcoat the horrible experiences that the persecuted suffered during the Holocaust, but explains it in a way that children can understand.

The idea of the book is genius. Sarah asks her mother why Great-Grandma is so sad and her mother answers her questions in a loving, maternal way. The details and the information Sarah’s mother shares with her clearly gives Sarah – and the readers – a clear understanding about why Great-Grandma is sad. It was an honest look at the Holocaust.

I think this book is so timely. The reality is that Holocaust survivors are getting older and soon there will be none left to tell the stories. I liked the way that Sarah is tasked with continuing her Great-Grandmother’s legacy. It is a legacy everyone who learns about the Holocaust is responsible to carry to future generations.

I enjoyed this book so much that I passed it on to my oldest right away to read. It is a very short book that is easy to read in one sitting, but it stays with you. I particularly enjoyed the stories of actual survivors at the end that Heagy included. It was inspiring to look at their faces and know what they have been through and survived.

If you are looking for a book to give children a realistic look into the Holocaust, this is the best one I have come across for a younger age group.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Book Crash in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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