About the Book…
Anticipating the Forest of Reading’s Silver Birch Awards, we selected Making Bombs for Hitler by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch as our next book. I was surprised that the girls chose this book over all the other nominees, but I remember my own obsession with the Holocaust around that 11/12 year-old age. And having a book told from the perspective of a girl their age was just too enticing to overlook, I’m sure. Because the book deals with some pretty heavy issues such as killing innocent people, including children, I checked with all the mothers beforehand just to make sure there weren’t any objections. It’s funny how you think you won’t censor your child’s reading until you come across books that might start blurring the lines between children’s knowledge of the world and an adult perspective of it. In any case, we all felt it was important that the girls read the books that interest them, and hopefully give them the answers and guidance around content when needed (that’s where I come in!).
What We Did…
In Making Bombs for Hitler, Lida was provided very little food in the work camp, including watered down soup and bread made from sawdust. I couldn’t serve any of that, but I did make split pea soup, which Lida had nearly every day after her rescue. Okay, I admit it – I didn’t make the soup; I bought it and heated it up. But surprisingly, almost every girl liked it and even had seconds! My other food items were our normal fare – hummus and pita (not quite sawdust bread, but dry at the least!), veggies and dip, and root vegetable chips. I wanted to serve weak tea, but was talked into pink lemonade instead. It is a social gathering after all!
I started the meeting with a YouTube video clip of an experiment done in the 1960s to teach children about discrimination. Jane Elliott’s 1970 experiment with grade 3 students titled, Brown Eyes and Blue Eyes,
shows how easy it is for people (especially children) to think themselves better merely because they are told they are better. The girls were a bit shocked by the language (the n-word is used one time) and how easily these kids excluded long-time friends just based on their eye color.
When we started the book discussion, it was clear that some parts of the book were disturbing but the way it is written made it palatable. I found the girls’ reaction to one of my questions very interesting. I asked if they thought it was realistic that none of the girls in the camp betrayed one another; no one hoarded food or gifts given by the soldiers, no one told on another girl to gain favors, etc. I liked that the book club members thought this type of betrayal unfathomable – that in a situation of such horror, the only way to get through it is to stick together instead of turn on one another. I brought up the question to see if their faith in people’s inherent goodness was still intact; their reactions and discussions were a pleasant confirmation.
Finding discussion questions and activities for this book was difficult since it is so new. I created the discussion questions myself and some of my Forest of Reading Leaders created the crossword and word scramble. I wanted to do an activitiy focusing on the more positive aspects of the story – teamwork and resilience. I found a Survivor Personality Quiz that showed each of them how resilient they really are.
Everyone really loved the book, and wanted to read the companion book about Lida’s younger sister, Stolen Child. If their Holocaust obsession sticks around, this may be another Bookclub book down the road!