Thoughts on “Benno and the Night of Broken Glass” by Meg Wiviott
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Illustrator: Josée Bisaillon
82 years ago, on the night of November 9-10, 1938, systematic pogroms in Nazi Germany were executed by the SA. To remind me of the Kristallnacht/ Night of Broken Glass I “read” a children book’s about it.
I searched my local library’s digital offerings for related books and was surprised to find a 9 minute long movie that bear the title of a 32 pages long book, also available from the library. So I watched the movie, which were essentially showing the pages of the book with either minor animation or panning/showing/zooming in-out on them without changes, while the text was read by Susie Berneis. I didn’t really “read” the book then but experienced it as a multimedia presentation. The animations included fading to black, moving layers, falling snow and flames of fires. These certainly enhanced the experience although sometimes I wished In could see the whole page of the book not just a segment of it. I understand that the printed version has an explanatory afterword with archival photos and a bibliography, which was not part of the “movie” version.
As you can read in the official description below the book is told from the perspective of a cat. Therefore I found it inconsistent that the visual viewpoint of the book was mostly external and not from an actual lower vantage point, where a cat would see the world from. From every other aspect I enjoyed the illustrations, because they were varied enough, while maintaining a coherent, lively visual style. The colors, atmospheres compositions kept my interest up too.
As a result of the well-written and concise text of the book and its masterful audio presentation I could really put myself in Benno’s position. It makes the seemingly impersonal, distant past personal by creating relatable figures, with gentle brushstrokes of their personalities and lives and how the pogrom changed the latter. How a peaceful community was separated artificially by hate and then by incited and organized violence. A message for our current day reality is certainly there. This could happen again anywhere if we are not careful, caring and courageous.
A neighborhood cat observes the changes in German and Jewish families in Berlin during the period leading up to Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass. This cat’s-eye view introduces the Holocaust to children in a gentle way that can open discussion of this period.
- Meg Wiviott, the author’s website
- Josée Bisaillon, the illustrator’s website
- Page at the publisher, Kar-Ben Publishing
- Review at the Jewish Book Council
- Review at Kirkus
Year first published: 2010