|By DREW AMO
WASECA — During the 1930s, more than 1,200 Jewish children left their homes in Germany and Central Europe and were sent to live in the United States with relatives.
They were leaving their homes and their parents for a place they had never been, the alternative was to risk a far worse fate in Nazi Germany.
The One Thousand Children project saved these children from the Holocaust and it’s the story of one of these children that the students and staff of the Waseca Junior High School are reading about as part of the Community-wide Reading Program.
The book, “Is It Night or Day?” was written by Illinois author Fern Schumer Chapman and recounts the story of her mother’s voyage to America during those dark times and her adjustment to her new home in America as well as the challenges she faced.
Waseca Junior High teacher and program coordinator David Oraskovich encourages members of the community to check out copies of the book as well as her first book “Motherland” from the Waseca-LeSueur Regional Library.
This is the third year the Junior High has initiated a community book reading event. Just as in previous years, the event is sponsored by the Waseca Area Foundation.
The read is only in its first weeks, but already Oraskovich is hearing a lot of positive feedback about this year’s book.
“People are telling me how captivated they are by this book,” he said, adding that he hears students discussing it outside of the classroom and carrying the book around with them in the halls.
From a teaching perspective, the story of 12-year-old Edith and the other children escaping from the Holocaust works well with what the students have been learning about.
Oraskovich explained that the eight grade class learned about Anne Frank last year, so this book offers them another personal perspective on the Holocaust.
Since this book was released in 2009, there are no trade paperbacks available yet, which would have meant a much higher price to get copies out to the students, staff and library.
Oraskovich said this was fixed with the help of the cooperation of the author and publisher, who were able to get the price of the books cut in half, from an original price of $18 per book down to $9.
The remaining costs were covered by a grant from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund of Minnesota through the Traverse Des Sioux Library system.
The community reading program will go on through February, when Chapman will be visiting Waseca for a speaking engagement and take questions from the audience.
Oraskovich said Chapman and her family have been wonderful to work with and are really looking forward to coming to Waseca and discussing the book.
“It’s an author’s dream to speak to an audience that have all read and been discussing their book,” Oraskovich said.
Starting at 7 p.m. on Feb. 24, Chapman will hold a presentation for the community at the Little Theater in the Waseca High School.
The next day she will spend time with the students of the Junior High School.
The presentation will allow Chapman to share her perspective as a writer, provide background on this and her other books as well as answer questions from the audience.
Drew Amo covers education and public safety for the Waseca County News. Reach him at 837-5451.