BEAR AND FRED
A World War II Story
By: Iris Argaman
Illustrated by: Avi Ofer
Translated by: Annette Appel
Published: May 1, 2020
Publisher: Amazon Crossing Kids
This sweet book is told from the perspective of much-loved Bear, the lifetime stuffed animal belonging to Fred. This story is based on Fred Lessing and his actual teddy bear, his very best friend.
Bear doesn’t understand exactly what is happening to Fred and his family. Bear hears conversations about leaving and hiding and keeping secrets. Fred and Bear leave and go to Amsterdam to stay with Fred’s grandpa. Bear doesn’t understand what or why this is happening and Fred is also very scared to be away from his family. But, he is so thankful to have Bear by his side.
Without talking about the really scary things that are happening, children will begin to realize that what is happening to Fred isn’t normal. Fred has to keep secrets about who he is and his family. He has to wear a yellow star and eventually has to go and live with a complete stranger. Fred is very scared, but he always has Bear to keep him safe and happy.
When the war ends, Fred is reunited with his family, and Bear continues to live with Fred into his adult life. When Bear has the opportunity to share his and Fred’s Holocaust story with others, Bear leaves Fred for the first time in their life to go to a museum. This is how the author heard about their story and wanted to write their story for children.
The illustrations are muted, pencil-like drawings that go perfectly with the story’s emotional tone. This is a story about Fred and Bear and doesn’t go into any real detail about the war. I could see where some more inquisitive children will ask questions, like why did Fred’s family leave him and why did he have to wear a yellow star? These are opportunities for parents to share more details about the war that are appropriate for that child.
This is a heartwarming story that brought tears to my eyes several times. It offers such a great opportunity to teach compassion for others as well as lessons from our history.
Iris Argaman is the author of a number of books for children, including BEAR AND FRED, which was awarded the Yad Vashem Prize in Israel and the Giovanni Arpino Prize for Children’s Literature in Italy. She lives in Israel, where she is a lecturer on children’s literature, holds writing workshops, and writes activity books that promote museum education.
Avi Ofer is an illustrator and animation director born and raised in Israel and now based in Spain. His work has been exhibited in art shows and screened in festivals around the world.
Annette Appel is a translator of books for young readers and truly enjoys the challenge of making stories written in Hebrew accessible to English speakers.
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