The recollections of a 13-year-old Holocaust survivor find poetic expression in It Rained Warm Bread.
It rained Warm Bread: Moishe Moskowitz’s Story of Hope by Gloria Moskowitz-Sweet and Hope Anita Smith, with illustrations by Lea Lyon. Henry Holt, 2019, 148 pages.
Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 8-10
Recommended for: ages 10-14
Moishe was accustomed to disdain: “We live in Poland,/ a country that has no use for us.” Catholic boys lie in wait for him on his way home from school and trip him up or steal his books. At least once, they rubbed pig fat in his face. Within his Jewish community, however, he was warm and fed—until the wolves came. The family war warned ahead of time: Mother urged his father to go to America, get a job and send for the family, but “My father tossed every chance aside” until it was too late. First the ghetto, then the trains, then the camps and separations and attempts to crush his soul and erase his identity. “They call me/ B-647./ But where there is life there is hope./ My name is Moishe./ And where there is hope. There is life.” He survived two labor camps, only to be nearly finished by a death march under nervous Nazi guards while the Allies closed in on them. At one point he was left for dead. But in the middle of the nightmare, the incident referred to in the title gave him hope to keep going.
Moishe Moskoqitz eventually immigrated to America, started a business, married and fathered children. He often spoke of his wartime experiences to his children, especially his daughter Gloria who co-authored this book. The verse format, shaped by Hope Anita Smith, works well for the story, adding emotional depth while blunting the starkness.
- The violence endemic to this story is muted but may be disturbing to sensitive readers.
- Moishe expresses anger with God more than once: “It is hard not to be angry at the Maker of the Universe.? We have been ripped from our home/ like a Band-Aid from a wound,/ so fast, but we are still stinging.” At other times he expresses faith: “The wolves can eat the Jews/ but their mouths are no match for the Master of the Universe.” It’s hard to tell where he ended up on the faith spectrum, but his doubts and anger are understandable in the context. It might be worthwhile to talk about what would shake one’s faith and how it might be recovered.
Overall Rating: 4 (out of 5)
- Worldview/moral value: 4
- Artistic/literary value: 4
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