Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Erika’s Story

Vander Zee, Ruth (Author)
Innocenti, Roberto (Illustrator)
Creative Editions 2003. 24 pages
First published: 2003
ISBN: 9781568461762 (hardcover)
9780898128918 (paperback)
9781566602402 (e-book)
Original language: English
Dewey: 940
Book type: Non-Fiction
Book genre: Biography

Text Elements:

character, characterization, conflict, multimodal, point of view, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

In this upsetting yet inspiring story, an author’s note introduces readers to Erika’s harrowing personal history, as a bundled newborn, on a train bound for a concentration camp.

Through Erika’s voice, the narrative provides sufficient background information for young readers unfamiliar with the Holocaust. The language is direct and evocative as Erika relates what she will never know about herself or her family, such as: “Had they heard whispered rumours of death camps?” and “I imagine my mother holding me close to protect me from the stench, the cries, the fear inside that packed car.”

Photo-realistic illustrations are replete with texture and historic detail. Villagers watch as the train trundles by. Shiny puddles reflect a derelict wood fence, as a little pink bundle is hurled from the cattle-car. Young students of history will find that even in devastating loss, there can be hope. At great risk to her caregiver, Erika is taken in. She grows up to know her Jewish heritage, and to raise a family of her own: “Today, my tree once again has roots.” This is an excellent addition to any history library.

  •  

    Before reading, review what you know of the situation of Jewish people in World War II.

  •  

    Discuss the mother’s decision. What did she have to consider before making such a decision? How is the story inspiring? How does knowing this is a true story influence your appreciation of it?

  •  Write a response to the story after discussing it with your peers.
  •  With the first double-page spread as a model, discuss how to read a visual text. Consider the use of colour, line, light, shadow and composition to make meaning.
  •  Following an initial reading and discussion of the text, reconsider the first and last double-page spreads. How does this reading differ from your initial one?
  •  Following small group discussion(s), write about the text using the response process.
  •  Review what you know of World War II and the Holocaust.
  •  

    Discuss how the format of the text, the vocabulary and the illustrations help create a sombre atmosphere. What do you think of the choice Erika’s mother made? How is this story inspiring?

  •  Write a letter from Erika to her birth parents.
  •  Research other stories to find out more about the Holocaust.
  •  Create a word web inspired by the front and back covers of the book. Gather as much information as you can to make predictions.
  •  Imagine you are Erika’s mother or father. If you could tuck a letter in your infant daughter’s blanket, what would you write? What would you want her to know? What words of hope would you offer her?
  •  Erika’s story is one of survival. Research another survival story and find a creative way to share it with your peers.
  • To construct his/her identity
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • To use information
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Geography, History and Citizenship
  • Social Sciences
  • Diary of a Young Girl (A. Frank)
    Night (E. Wiesel)
    Terrible Things (E. Bunting)
    Rose Blanche (C. Gallaz)