The Learning Guide
A Boy Named 68818 is not only the gripping novelization of Srulek Storch's survival. It is also an indispensable educational tool for educators and students of the Holocaust. What sets this book apart from most Holocaust-themed memoirs is the in-depth Learning Guide which takes the reader/student deeper into the era of WWII and the life that Srulek once knew.
Below is an overview of educational features you'll find in the appendices of A Boy Named 68818.
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The historical overview lays out the events of WWII and the geopolitical climate of Eastern Europe, which serves as the backdrop to Srulek's journey.
Timeline of Events
The timeline provides a cursory look at the significant events in the lives of the Storch family while concurrently tracing the events of world history.
The illustration guide explores the details and meaning behind the intricately rendered drawings. In addition, a translation is provided for the handwritten text which is carefully woven into the drawing it accompanies.
Exploring Srulek's World
Exploring Srulek's World is the in-depth learning guide that immerses the reader into Srulek's daily life. The learning guide engages the mind and heart as the reader is offered topics for thought, research and ethical discussion. The guide reviews, chapter by chapter, the book's themes of history, emotion, spiritual resistance and heroism, Judaism and literature.
The reader is given a glimpse into the personal life of Srulek through a collection of vintage photographs of Srulek's family and effects related to his journey.
Review from Danny M. Cohen Ph. D., author of "Train" and assistant professor at Nothwestern University in Chicago.
Mr. Cohen teaches a course called Design of Holocaust Education.
A BOY NAMED 68818 is a Holocaust biography/memoir that is unique, layered, and extremely teachable.
UNIQUE: A BOY NAMED 68818 tells the story of Srulek Storch, a Jewish fourteen-year-old in wartime Czechoslovakia, who is arrested by the Nazis and deported to Auschwitz.
What is fascinating about this book is that it is co-written by Srulek (Israel Starck) and his daughter, Miriam (Starck) Miller. And so the book is both a memoir and a biography, since the memories of Nazi occupied Europe and the Nazi camps belong to Israel the survivor, yet those memories have been "translated" by his daughter into compelling, concise prose.
Although we don't get to see the story from Miriam's perspective directly (as seen in the second generation text MAUS by Art Spiegelman, for example), we can't help but be aware that Miriam has chosen to tell her father's story with certain words and in a particular way. And so her voice -- and the voice of the second generation -- is ever-present.
LAYERED: In addition to its compelling central narrative, A BOY NAMED 68818 is enhanced by exceptional illustrations, poetry (including the well known poem "The Butterfly" by Pavel Friedman), and biblical quotations. On the surface, these enhancements can be seen as overwhelming Srulek's story, but, as we fall into Srulek's world, these artworks, poems, and quotations can be seen as becoming part of the protagonist's journey.
In another context, the biblical quotations would be seen as cliché, but here they reflect Srulek's religious Jewish upbringing and religious beliefs, while the poetry throughout the book reminds us of the broader historical context and points to the idiosyncrasy of each individual's Holocaust experience. The illustrations by Gadi Pollack and Alex Firley are entirely absorbing and at times beautiful, despite the horrors they often convey.
The book is jam-packed and can sometimes be seen as being overthought and disjointed, but this combination also makes the reading experience intense, as well as reflective of the authors' goal to educate. In this sense, A BOY NAMED 68818 feels urgent, almost achingly desperate, mirroring the urgency of Holocaust education in the 21st Century and pointing to a time -- coming all too soon -- when there will no longer be witnesses and survivors of the Nazis' atrocities to tell their stories in person.
EXTREMELY TEACHABLE: What makes this book outstanding as an educational text is the extensive supplementary materials that can be found at the back of the book. (Note that while the book is 346 pages long, the main story takes up only the first 211 pages, many of which are artworks and poems -- this makes the text an excellent resource for classrooms and a worthy introduction to Holocaust testimony.) The supplementary materials include maps, historical timelines, family photographs, primary documents, images of real artifacts, suggested classroom activities, and reader questions, which will no doubt make this book a pleasure to teach.
Danny M. Cohen, Ph. D.
Assistant Professor of Instruction
School of Education & Social Policy
The Crown Family Center for Jewish & Israel Studies