Everyone should read The Lady with the Books and know the story of Jella Lepman, who understood the importance of books in the lives of children.
Lepman was born in Germany, but fled her country with her children during the Second World War because she was Jewish. When the war ended, she returned to Germany and was given the job of helping children affected by the war. She decided children needed books “believing that good children’s books from around the world could create ‘bridges of understanding’ between people.”
Lepman wrote letters to 20 countries asking them to send books. Nineteen did so, with the final country – Belgium – refusing because Germany had already invaded them twice.
Lepman wrote back, asking them to reconsider so the children of Germany could feel connected to people throughout the world and that they were the “best hope for preventing another war.” Belgium ended up sending a collection of books including The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, which is featured predominately in The Lady with the Books by Kathy Stinson and illustrated by Marie Lafrance.
In this Kids Can Press book, we meet Anneliese and her brother Peter, who are starving, but find themselves in a travelling book exhibit where they get lost in the books, forgetting for a moment about their hunger.
They meet Lepman who translates the story of Ferdinand, about a bull who doesn’t like to fight and just wants to smell the flowers.
“When it was clear that the bull would not fight like the bullfighters wanted him to, Anneliese was afraid to look. Her papa had been shot for standing up to men whose orders he didn’t want to follow.”
The book continues about how stories bring hope back to Anneliese and encourages her to make her world a better place.
I cried. Still crying. It’s an absolutely beautiful book, a beautiful message and a beautiful story that needs to be told over and over and over again.
Books are powerful tools: the offer hope, laughter and escape. And they change lives.
Jella Lepman passed away in 1970 at the age of 79, but not before she helped create the International Board on Books for Young People. Today, 75 countries have their own section of IBBY, including Canada.
One of the most “important activities has been helping children whose lives have been disrupted by war, civil disorder and natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis. Through storytelling and by creating or replacing book collections, IBBY helps the children believe in the possibility of a better future.”
The Lady with the Books is from Kids Can Press and retails for $19.99.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will go to IBBY’s Children in Crisis Fund.
A copy of this book was provided by Kids Can Press for an honest review.
The opinions are my own.