Book Report – Erika’s Story

1. Book Title and Author
Erika’s Story, Written by Ruth Vander Zee, illustrated by Roberto Innocenti
2. Write a summary of the plot of the Holocaust novel/memoir you are currently reading.
This is a picture story book about a woman named Erika, she was born in 1944; just before the end of the Second World War and before the Jewish people were liberated from the German Nazi’s concentration camps and ghettos. The book is set many years after the end of the war, when Erika is a grandmother. She writes about her mother and father, how they were forced into a ghetto and how they were taken off to a concentration camp in a crowded, stuffy train. Then, in one statement, Erika completely changes the mood of the story. She reveals that on the train to the concentration camp, her mother threw her out of the train and into life. She talks about her life with an adoptive mother and how her biological mother is the reason that she survived.
3. What do you think the author intended to achieve by writing this text?
I think the author intended to demonstrate the horror of the holocaust in a way that is accessible to people. The shock of the mother, throwing her baby out of a moving train demonstrates the horrific tragedy that was the Holocaust. It demonstrates the desperation experienced by so many Jewish people.
4. What artistic choices did the author make to tell the story in a way that will affect readers (Give examples of these choices such as language use/ metaphor/treatment of historical occurrences)?
The author chose to make this a picture story book as to make the story short, concise and powerful. The most effective thing that the authors and illustrators did, is to make the single, awful page that shows and describes the mother tossing her brand new baby out of the window of the train. The page takes away the breath of the reader.
5. Is this text literature? Will it continue to tell its story through history?
I don’t think this text will continue to tell its story simply because it is one amongst a sea of many stories that are so similar. It’s illustrations do not quite capture the scale of the Holocaust and how awful it really was.
6. How does reading this text compare with the experience of visiting the Holocaust Museum and listening to the testimony of a Holocaust Survivor?
It doesn’t convey the tragedy or the scale of the holocaust.
b. How important was it to you that your chosen text felt ‘true’ or ‘authentic’?
It seemed to be an authentic story but it was not detailed or horrific enough to be a true testimony.
c. Do you believe there is a need for Art that uses the Holocaust as its subject matter when there is so much testimony and historical evidence available? Yes, I think that before visiting the Holocaust museum, I didn’t understand how horrific the Holocaust really was, so there absolutely is a need to hear testimonies and see evidence. However, without literature to carry these stories through to future generations, it is impossible to be sure that the holocaust will remain to be as shocking and appalling to people who were not there and that it will not fade into history.
erika's story

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