If Number the Stars had a little sister, this would be it. This poignant picture book also takes place in Denmark, and it also portrays Jews being smuggled by boat to Sweden and safety; both books are even based on true events. In The Whispering Town, Anett’s family is caring for a small Jewish family in their cellar until a boat can take them to Sweden. We see Anett whisper of their new “friends” to the baker, and the librarian, and the farmer, and carry home extra bread, and library books, and eggs as a result. Each time she leaves her home she sees Nazi soldiers knocking on someone else’s door, looking for Jews–until they finally knock on hers. How they manage to get their “friends” to safety anyhow makes for a lovely story of a community coming together to help those in need. I cried, of course; motherhood has made me weepy in that way. Then again, how could you not cry? Stories like Number the Stars and The Whispering Town explain why over 99% of Danish Jews survived the Holocaust. At a time in history when America turned away Jews by the boatload and some small-town Christians were only too happy to pick up their pitchforks and join in with Hitler’s mission, one country managed to evacuate 7,220 of its 7,800 Jews safely; Denmark also interceded on behalf of the 464 Danish Jews who were deported to Theresienstadt. Such a story deserves to be told–and retold.
I read this to both my girlies. My oldest, who is 7 1/2, was fascinated and ready to help those in trouble herself. My shy and sensitive (and timid) middle was scared by the idea and very snuggly by the end of the book. She’s almost 5, and I actually think it was as much a personality reaction as it was age; all the same, the inside cover suggests ages 7-11. You’ll have to make the decision for your children, of course, but please, give this one a try when you think they are old enough. You’ll be glad you did.