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Books for Children of the World: The Story…

Books for Children of the World: The Story of Jella Lepman

by Sydelle Pearl

Other authors: Danlyn Iantorno (Illustrator)

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After WWII Jella Lepman returns to Germany to help determine what the children need. She learns they want books. This is the story of how she gets books into the hands of the children.

I enjoyed this book. I found it interesting how she found funding to start a library. I also liked that she took the initiative to get books printed that she could give to the children. The book was Ferdinand the Bull, which was a favorite of mine from childhood.

I recommend this book for 7-10 year olds. ( )
  Sheila1957 | Jan 22, 2017 |
Review: When the U.S. Army asked Jella Lepman - a German Jewish refugee who had fled Nazi Germany, and spent the war years as a journalist in Britain - to return to her home country after the war, and serve as an adviser on the needs of Germany's children, she agreed. Quickly determining that, in addition to homes, clothing and food, German children needed books - books about and from other countries and peoples, books that showed the possibility of peace and international cooperation - she set up a traveling exhibition of children's titles from around the world.

The phenomenal success of this exhibition, with children and parents lining up, just for a chance to hold a book, confirmed Lepman's belief that books - specifically children's books - could make the world a better place. Other projects, like Lepman's translation of The Story of Ferdinand, which was printed by a newspaper, and handed out to 30,000 children one Christmas, and the founding of The International Youth Library in Munich, soon followed. Eventually, Lepman went on to establish The International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), one of the most influential children's literature organizations in the world.

Jella Lepman is a woman I greatly admire: for her bravery, in returning to Germany despite her (very natural) fears; for her astonishing generosity of spirit, in caring so deeply for the welfare of children whose elders had set out to exterminate those of her faith; for her great insight and wisdom, in perceiving the vital role of children's literature (always something close to my heart) in promoting an educated and ethical world population. In short, she's something of a hero to me, and the more I learn of her story, the more impressed I am. I can't think of a better subject for a children's biography!

Unfortunately, although I am enthusiastically in support of the idea of such a biography, Books for Children of the World fell a little short for me. In fact, if I weren't so interested in the subject, I probably would have awarded this two stars. Pearl Sydelle's narrative just doesn't read that well, and although this is ostensibly a picture-book for younger kids, seems to assume a level of knowledge - about WWII and the behavior of the Nazis - that not all young readers will possess. I found the illustrations by Danlyn Iantorno rather flat and unappealing. Even the title felt a little off to me - wouldn't "Books for the Children of the World" have been better?

Still, despite its flaws, I'm glad this exists, as the only other book devoted to Jella Lepman's story, that I am aware of, is her adult autobiography, A Bridge of Children's Books. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Jul 21, 2015 |
Jella Lepman was a German Jewess who fled to England with her son and daughter during World War II. During this time, she wrote news stories for England and the United States. After the war, she returned to Germany and realized the deficit left by the Nazi purge of “undesirable materials.” She contacted publishers from all over the world, who sent books and paintings by children. Jella organized a traveling exhibition and eventually received a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to create and maintain the International Youth Library in Munich.

Jella’s story is told with an emphasis on children and positive change. The colorful illustrations complement the text, and the author’s note details the International Youth Library. While not exactly a Holocaust story, Jella’s enthusiasm and determination will serve as an example to reader of what one person can accomplish and how many lives they can touch.
1 vote Zachor | Nov 1, 2007 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sydelle Pearlprimary authorall editionscalculated
Iantorno, DanlynIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Presents the life of the founder of the International Youth Library in Munich, describing how she was sent by the United States Army to Germany in 1945 to assist German children and decided to build a children's library.

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