Talk to kids about history and you can often watch their eyes glaze over in real time as they consider facts, figures and dates.
But mention historical fiction? Then you get a very different response.
You only need to scroll through the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook community to see how interested young readers are in reading stories set in the past. And one of the most popular settings is the Second World War.
From Morris Gleitzman’s Once series to Katrina Nannestad’s most recent work Waiting For The Storks via a wide range of titles in between (see this excellent list for more), there seems to be a thirst for knowledge about this time period.
And, frankly, my guest author today couldn’t be happier about that.
Catherine Baeur is a journalist and writer from South Australia, whose latest novel Tulips For Breakfast, is set in Amsterdam during the Second World War. Her parents were both great story tellers and among her favourites, her father’s wonderful retellings about finding joy in small things, his enthralling adventures and often hardships of a childhood growing up in WWII Germany.
Those stories were part of the inspiration for Tulips For Breakfast, and then Catherine drew on her extensive research skills to gather first-hand accounts to help ensure the emotional and historical authenticity of her novel. The result is the story of Adelena, living in hiding in the Amsterdam home of her music teacher after her fleeing pre-war Germany with her Jewish parents.
The character of Adelena is loosely based on the real-life Hannah (Hanneli) Goslar Pick, who was a friend and playmate of Anne Frank, and who, in her later years, encouraged Catherine to tell the story for this generation of readers.
Here, Catherine shares her inspiration and experience of writing her novel – and why she believes it’s important that stories like hers are told.
The importance of teaching the Holocaust to young Australians
Two years short of the 80th anniversary of the end of WWII, today there is a daily decline in the number of Holocaust survivors in the world. Therefore, the responsibility for keeping their memories and legacy alive increasingly falls to those who remain, including teachers and historians.
This point was made consistently with all those I spoke with while researching for my debut YA historical fiction novel, Tulips for Breakfast (Ford Street Publishing). Former hidden children and Holocaust survivors, now elderly men and women, still have vivid memories and a desire that new generations learn about this period, the heartache, inhumanity and also the many uplifting and life-affirming lessons.
One of those I reached out was Hannah Goslar Pick, a childhood friend of young diarist, Anne Frank. Hannah passed away last year, aged 93, and spent a large part of her life keeping the memories alive. She told me it was what her parents would have wanted and that the stories must be passed on.
Holocaust studies are not a compulsory part of the Australian curriculum in all states, but the topic does come up in subjects such as History, English and Religious studies.
A secondary teacher friend of mine mentioned that many schools don’t allocate enough time for an in-depth study of topics such as the Holocaust. This means many young Australians will only ever get a broad-brush overview rather than any valuable understanding of this cataclysmic part of world history and the almost total extermination of a generation.
The Holocaust – the organised and systematic genocide of the Jewish people by Nazi Germany – saw the death of approximately six million Jewish men, women and children. In addition, other groups were persecuted by the regime including homosexuals, those with disability, the black community and Roma gypsies.
But why should Australian students dive into this period? Because, though WWII ended almost 80 years ago, the ripples are still being felt today.
Learning about the dangers of hatred and discrimination at play in the Holocaust is important for fighting intolerance and prejudice in today’s world.
Studying the Holocaust provides opportunities to explore and inspire students with stories of courage and adversity, activism and resilience. These lessons can encourage students to build empathy for other groups being persecuted in the world today and to develop an understanding of, and value, a diverse and cohesive Australian society.
Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of middle-grade series, The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher, and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries. You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.