Set during WWII, the book opens on Lalka's 7th birthday. Her mother gave her a gift and asked her to play a game that started with trading the treasured Star of David necklace that her father gave her for a shiny crystal necklace. Lalka's mother taught her daughter the significance of the rosary necklace and also Christian prayers. After a few months, her mother brought Lalka to a convent where she continued to learn about the Christian faith.
Lalka always looked forward to her mother's visits when she could share everything she was learning. Then one day when she was expecting to see her mother, she was surprised to find strange men in Sister Teresa's office. How did they have her Star of David necklace? Would Lalka remember to play the game that mama taught her?
As a mother, I cannot imagine the agonizing decision to allow your child to be reared not only by strangers, but to be taught a foreign religion. The Crystal Beads offers children a gentle introduction to the topic of WWII. The author has included not only discussion questions for children, but also a set for adults.
If you have wondered how to sensitively introduce a child to information about WWII, this book is a perfect starting point. It offers a poignant example of a mother's sacrificial love in light of a terrifying period in history. I highly recommend this book for every public, school, or home library.
Author Pat Black-Gould based her book, The Crystal Beads: Lalka's Journey, upon a story she had heard years ago. First writing it as a short story, it received two awards. Black-Gould later adapted that short story into this picture book. Bonus content of the book includes a note from the author with background on the story as well as an explanation of what one middle school did to help students empathize with victims of the war. Additionally, the author included stories from a Holocaust survivor (the illustrator's grandfather) and a perspective from a son of a survivor. The author & illustrator biographies at the back are a great way for readers to connect with those who brought this piece of history to life in such a sensitive, age-appropriate manner.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of The Crystal Beads: Lalka's Journey from Purple Butterfly Press for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received and the opinions expressed are my own.