Benno and the Night of Broken Glass


Benno was the neighborhood's favorite cat.

During the week, he napped in a sunny corner of Mitzi Stein's dress shop, and begged scraps from Moshe the butcher. He spent Shabbat evenings with Sophie Adler's family in Apartment 3B.

But one night the Nazis came to Berlin. Windows were shattered, books were burned, and Benno's Jewish friends disappeared. Life would never be the same.

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Benno was the neighborhood's favorite cat.

During the week, he napped in a sunny corner of Mitzi Stein's dress shop, and begged scraps from Moshe the butcher. He spent Shabbat evenings with Sophie Adler's family in Apartment 3B.

But one night the Nazis came to Berlin. Windows were shattered, books were burned, and Benno's Jewish friends disappeared. Life would never be the same.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Sara Rofofsky Marcus
This book presents a unique view of Kristallnacht and the time leading up to it. Using a cat as the eyes to the tale, the reader sees friendships change, rationing and Nazi-takeovers beginning, and a facelift occur on Rosenstrasse in Berlin, Germany, where Kristallnacht occurred. This is not a watered down view of the Night of Broken Glass but rather an alternate, impartial view, similar to what a child or innocent observer might have seen and felt. The images and attention to detail demonstrate the research that has gone into the creation of this book. Useful for introducing Kristallnacht, prejudice, and racism, the author has also presented an example of narrative through the eyes of another whom one might not normally expect to hear or see. The impartiality does not mean that the cat, or viewer, does not care, but rather the way the changes are seen might not be the way a person, particularly an adult, might see the changes occurring. Reviewer: Sara Rofofsky Marcus
Kirkus Reviews
Benno the cat has it pretty good, with a nice warm bed by the furnace of a Berlin apartment building, fresh milk every night, scraps from Shabbat dinners at the Adlers' apartment and Sunday lunches with the Schmidts. Visiting Moshe's butcher shop provides more nourishment, while the sunny window of Mitzi Stein's fabric shop serves perfectly for afternoon naps. But one day things change, when men in brown shirts defile the neighborhood with a book-burning in the center of the street followed by the smashing of store windows, looting and destruction of certain apartments and stores. These terribly frightening events change not only Benno's secure, happy cat existence but become known as Kristallnacht, the beginning of the Holocaust. Bisaillon's combination of collage, drawings and digital montage create a Cubist backdrop for this darkly portrayed story told with minimal details that keep strictly to the cat's level of understanding-it's up to readers and their grown-ups to fill in the gaps, aided by an afterword and bibliography that provide background to the topic and grist for discussion. (Picture book. 7-9)
School Library Journal
Gr 3–5—Through the eyes of an orange and white cat, readers are introduced to the harrowing event known as Kristallnacht. Benno spends his days observing the friendly, predictable rituals in his neighborhood: girls walking together to school, shopkeepers selling their wares, a Jewish family eating Sabbath dinner, a Christian family eating Sunday lunch. Then one night, he sees brown-shirted men breaking down doors, smashing shop windows, and setting fire to books and buildings. Jewish families disappear, and even though the people that remain resume their normal activities, nothing is ever quite the same again. The straightforward text describes events without sentimentality, as if Benno were simply reporting what he sees and hears. "In Apartment 3B, the mob was breaking the Adlers' furniture and throwing books out the window…. The Schmidts' apartment was untouched." But what truly distinguishes this book is the striking multimedia artwork composed of paper, fabric, and drawn images in hues of olive, brown, and red. Interesting angles, textures, and patterns add to the visual effect throughout. The spreads depict a normal city neighborhood from a cat's-eye view, which is eventually upended by dark shadowy figures with big black boots. Thus the message of terror and sadness that marks the beginning of the Holocaust is transmitted in a way that is both meaningful and comprehensible. An afterword provides historical context for the story, although it presupposes knowledge of the term "Holocaust." Use this book with Karen Hesse's The Cats in Krasinski Square (Scholastic, 2004) for further discussion of the topic. For all collections.—Teri Markson, Los Angeles Public Library
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822599296
  • Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/1/2010
  • Pages: 28
  • Sales rank: 783,359
  • Age range: 7 - 11 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.90 (w) x 10.90 (h) x 0.20 (d)

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