March 09, 2015


Summary: Told through the eyes of a grandmother recalling her childhood during the Nazi occupation of Paris, this story takes the wrenching events of the Holocaust and shows how important it is to remember our history and set it free so that the healing process can begin. In the book's frame narrative, the grandmother, Dounia, begins to tell her story to her granddaughter Elsa, a story she has kept secret for decades: a story of survival during a dark time, and of the kindness that still existed in others despite the horrors of persecution. As a young French Jewish girl during World War II, Dounia is cared for and hidden away by friends and neighbors even after her own parents are taken away; suffused throughout with hope and small kind acts, the story ultimately leads to a heartwarming and touching ending.

Peaks: This book provides another entry (on an admittedly already-crowded bookshelf) into an important historical event, and it does so with a particularly deft and gentle touch. The love between the family members and the kindness of their allies is clear, and provides a strong uplifting note throughout—instead of showing how the Holocaust brought out the worst and most desperate in people, it shows how people were brought closer together and showed heroism in small, individual ways.

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In my opinion, this one avoided being didactic and remained rather sweet and innocent despite the subject matter, making it a good one for very young readers. The main character, Elsa's grandmother, makes a relatable narrator, and we see everything convincingly through her eyes: the story is faithful to a child's perspective, including the idea that children see a lot more than we give them credit for. 

Valleys: Will kids say "oh, no, not another Holocaust story"? I'm not sure. As already mentioned, there are plenty of stories about this time in history, but on the other hand, there are as many individual stories of the Holocaust as there are individuals around to tell them. For readers who aren't quite ready for Maus by Art Spiegelman, Hidden takes a gentler approach that nevertheless conveys the hardships of the Nazi occupation on Paris's children.

Conclusion: With characters that are cute, funny, even unintimidating, the overall effect is perfect for a book for younger readers that deals with heavier historical themes. Moments of humor balance the seriousness, and in the end, the message is conveyed that storytelling itself can heal.

I received my copy of this book courtesy of the publisher. You can find HIDDEN by Loïc Dauvillier, Marc Lizano and Greg Salsedo at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!


Sharon Himsl said...

Hi...It's good to have an alternative for young readers to understand a such a tragic time. And true, the book shelf does seem crowded, as you say, but dare we put this topic to rest? I loved the Book Thief for older readers. It was yet another perspective and another way of looking at the holocaust.

Sarah Stevenson said...

Thanks, Sharon, for stopping by and commenting! I tend to think that the more different perspectives there are on difficult topics like these, the more opportunity there is to connect with a wide range of readers. I agree with you about The Book Thief--what a wonderful book, and they did well with the movie, too.