Primary Genre(s): Children’s Fiction
Published: 6 Oct 2020 by Kids Can Press
Page count: 32
My Format: eARC via NetGalley
Pacing: Not Applicable
Would I recommend it: Absolutely
Commission Link: Buy The Lady with the Books
My rating: ★★★★★
Synopsis from Goodreads
Inspired by true events, a fictionalized retelling of how one woman brought a world of books to children in Germany after World War II, and changed their lives forever.
Anneliese and Peter will never be the same after the war that took their father’s life. One day, while wandering the ruined streets of Munich, the children follow a line of people entering a building, thinking there may be free food inside. Instead, they are delighted to discover a great hall filled with children’s books — more books than Anneliese can count. Here, they meet the lady with the books, who encourages the children to read as much as they want. And she invites them to come back the next day. Eventually, she will have a greater impact on the children’s lives than they could ever have imagined.
This is a beautiful story. Here are my pros and cons for The Lady with the Books:
- This is a fictionalized children’s story about how a “Lady with the books” impacted the lives of two children.
- The “Lady with the books” was Jella (pronounced YELL-ah) Lepman. She was a woman who believed that children in post-WWII Germany needed books as much as they needed food. She believed books would offer children hope for the future. She particularly wanted to provide them with books from around the world to help children feel connected to each other, in hopes of preventing future wars.
- There is a mini-biography at the end of children’s story that gives more detail about what Mrs. Lepman accomplished. I also encourage you to read more about this incredible woman on Wikipedia.
- This short little picture book is so full of emotion! I’m absolutely not embarrassed to admit there was one particular scene that brought a tear to my eye. It was when young Peter asked the lady if he could take a book home with him. She had to tell him no, since the books were meant to be read at the exhibition only. The biography mentions how much Mrs. Lepman hated telling the children they could not take the books home, so she decided to translate one of the popular books into German and had 30,000 copies printed. All of the children that attended the book exhibition in Berlin took home their own copy of The Story of Ferdinand by American author Munro Leaf. If you are not familiar with that book, it is about a bull who loved flowers and didn’t want to fight.
- The illustrations by Marie Lafrance are simply beautiful.
- Besides the wonderful tale about the impact of books on children, you will also get a small glimpse into what post-war life was life for families and children.
I think this book is important for children to read because it stresses not only the importance of books, but it reinforces how thankful we should be if we have ready access to books! There are many places in the world where books are still considered very precious and rare or even nonexistent… for children and adults alike. Mrs. Lepman believed that books provided readers with hope, understanding, and a sense of connection with others. She was right.
I’m a huge advocate for children reading books and I can’t believe I’ve never heard of Mrs. Lepman before now. I find it oddly appropriate that I learned about her from a children’s book.
I would encourage parents to read the book first. The target age is 4 to 7 years old, but the book does mention that the children’s father was shot and killed in the war, and it also mentions going hungry and thoughts of stealing food. The story does not linger on these topics, but I thought it was worth mentioning that they exist.
I would like to also mention that a portion of the author’s royalties for this book will be donated to IBBY’s Children in Crisis Fund. IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) was founded by Mrs. Lepman.
Thank you NetGalley and Kids Can Press for a free eARC of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
If you would like to read this book and form your own opinion, please consider purchasing through this link: Buy The Lady with the Books. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. Thanks!
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(image from Goodreads)