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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Star Bright 2nd Star I see tonight

I noticed that Star Bright Books will release an adult/young adult book about the Holocaust early next year. Why is a children’s book publisher involved with the book Hidden Letters?

Diane, I would say it’s fate! Our publisher Deborah Slier Shine received the 86 letters and postcards written in 1942 by her first cousin 18-year-old Philip "Flip" Slier. Flip wrote the letters to his parents while he was imprisoned in a forced labor camp. Deborah was born in South Africa where her father had immigrated; Deborah’s father and Flip’s father were brothers. Although she never met her Dutch relatives while growing up, Deborah knew them through the family photo album and her father’s stories.

In Hidden Letters, Flip’s experiences are told through his letters, translated from Dutch, which were discovered in 1997 in the ceiling of a building being demolished in Amsterdam. Flip tells about camp procedures and his hard work. He shares how he managed to procure additional food and stay healthy in a very harsh environment. In spite of these conditions, Flip acknowledges his blessings in his letters, including the support of many people, Jews and Gentiles, who helped him meet his physical and emotional needs during his imprisonment.

Against the backdrop of Flip’s letters the annotators, Deborah Slier and Ian Shine, have added detailed annotations and over 300 photographs, documents, and maps. The book also has extensive notes and a bibliography. Educators will welcome the addition of these primary sources that contextualize Flip’s experiences during Nazi-occupied Holland.

I had the opportunity to create a Teaching Tools: Curriculum Guide and a Genocide WebQuest to support educators in teaching the book. SJL Blog readers can access them from: http://www.hiddenletters.com/ I am also involved with a group of educators at a Catholic high school in New York who are using advance review copies of the book in an interdisciplinary course on genocide. I plan to co-author an article about the students’ learning as it relates to their engagement with Hidden Letters.

It is incredible that Flip Slier’s voice is being heard more than sixty years after he wrote his letters. I believe many will be thankful that Flip’s poignant letters landed in the hands of a children’s book publisher who recognized their value and took the time and made the effort to annotate them and make them even more meaningful to 21st-century readers. The book will be available in February 2008.

Star Bright Books’ website states: "Star Bright produces books that embrace children of all colors, nationalities and abilities, because we believe that all children should see themselves in print." You also offer titles in 16 different languages.  Tell us about the demand for these languages.

Star Bright Books is committed to providing books in heritage languages. We know that children who are literate in any language can transfer their literacy skills and behaviors to a second language. It is critical, then, that parents and caregivers read to babies and young children in their homes and daycare centers in their primary language.

If a Star Bright Books customer requires a book in a language we do not currently publish, we can help them fill a need in their community. If they commit to purchasing 500 copies of a previously-published Star Bright Books title in a new language and provide us with a translation or adaptation, we produce the book in the language they need with the next print run of that title. This is the way we have grown our list of languages; through helping libraries and literacy organizations meet the linguistic needs of their service populations.