Sunday, January 22, 2006

Memories of Survival

Krinitz, Esther Nisenthal and Steinhardt, Bernice. 2005. MEMORIES OF SURVIVAL. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 0786851260 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-8]

This haunting picture book began as embroidered fabric panels that a holocaust survivor created to share her life’s experiences with her daughters and the world. “It seemed the only way,” says her daughter Bernice Steinhardt, “she could make sense of the extreme horror that had consumed her family.” Krinitz and her sister survived Nazi occupation of their village in Poland, but lost the rest of their family in a frightening series of events that readers, young and old, will not soon forget.

Each lavishly detailed folk art scene matter-of-factly reveals an important memory--some joyous, like the time she walked on stilts to her grandparent's house, some desolate, like the time she visited the prison camp near her home at the war's end. Despite the ornate artistry of the textiles, they seem childishly simple. They comprise a child’s view of horrifying times. Krinitz’s daughter augments her mother’s words and also provides an ample introduction. In it, she notes that her mother couldn’t keep from telling her story. Over the years she nurtured her children with oral history and intermittently wrote things down, before deciding at age fifty that the best way to share her memories was to create pictures of them. She eventually created thirty-six embroidered pictures before her death in 2001. This remarkable book celebrates one woman’s survival and her gift for sharing her shocking experiences in a uniquely beautiful art form.

Like Krinitz, readers may find that words alone are not always the best way to tell a story. They can share an event from their own lives with any alternative medium. Unlimited possibilities include painting, collage, soap sculpture, clay, and needlework.

These books focus on family history shared from one generation to another through stories and crafts:
Rocklin, Joanne. STRUDEL STORIES. ISBN 0385326024
Shannon, George THIS IS THE BIRD. ISBN 0395720370

By Suzy Parchman

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