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Monday, November 11, 2019

It Rained Warm Bread: Moishe Moskowitz's Story of Hope. Story by Gloria Moskowitz-Sweet and poems by Hope Anita Smith. Illustrations by Lea Lyon. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2019. $22.50 ages 11 and up

"Our Polish neighbors watch, too,
but only for a moment.
They must make a choice:
Bury their heads in the sand
or pick up a fistful and throw it at us.
The Nazis devise a plan
to make it easier to find their prey.
By candlelight,
my mother sews yellow patches
on our jackets and coats.
We are stars,
but we do not shine."

As she has done before and will do again, Hope Anita Smith writes painful and poignant poems that speak to our hearts. Moishe's daughter shared her father's story with Ms. Smith and the result is this heartbreaking, yet hopeful, story of the fear he felt and the lessons he carried with him following the Nazi occupation of Poland. Life for Jewish people was alarming before the occupation; it became even more terrifying and evil with the arrival of the Nazis.

"No playing.
No light at night.
No conversations.
I no longer go to school,
and still,
I have mastered a new subject.
I have learned to be invisible."

Too soon, the family is forced to leave their home. A ghetto becomes their prison, before murder or deportation to the concentration camps. Moishe's family is lost to him. His life over the next years is one of horror, hunger, and eternal hardship. There are brief moments of kindness, never forgotten. He carries with him the love given and lessons taught by his family, and Moishe does not give up while he still has air to breathe.

"And as my father would say,
"Where there is hope, there is life."
I tote them around with me everywhere,
the weight of their memory
never so heavy that I would set them down.
I never stop thinking of them.
I carry them.
And because I carry them,
I feel each of them, in turn, reaching out their hands
to lighten my load.
I carry them
and that makes my burden
easier to bear."

So beautifully written, and absolutely heartbreaking. To know that Moishe, at 91, is alive and well, recently retired from the family business, enjoying his grandchildren, and spending time speaking to middle grade students about the war and his experiences is testament to the courage and bravery he has shown since he was 13 years old.

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