Because I work as a librarian at a Jewish Day School, the students I encounter are well aware of the Holocaust by the time they reach 4th and 5th grades.  Benno and the Night of the Broken Glass by Meg Wiviott will make an excellent addition to our collection on the topic.

Wiviott successfully captures the interest of children in this age group by using Benno the cat as the central character.  Benno stands in well for a child-like perspective.  He is, as the story begins, well adjusted and happy, moving easily between people and apartments in his home in Berlin of the 1930s.  We get to follow Benno as he visits the Adlers on Friday nights for scraps from their Shabbat dinners, the Schmidts for treats after church on Sundays, on weekdays as he follows the children to school, and so on.

But soon Benno notices the changes.  First, there are fewer scraps for him, and adults are busier.  Then, "men in brown shirts" begin burning books.  Everyone becomes more isolated, less friendly. 

The book makes clear the impact that Kristallnacht, or the night of broken glass, has on Benno's little corner of Berlin.  The beautiful synagogue is burned down, and Jewish stores are vandalized.  The stores of Christian shopkeepers are left "untouched."  One strength of this book is its matter-of-fact tone.  The author describes how the Jews are arrested or harassed and then notes that others are "untouched."  This approach makes obvious how Nazi discrimination worked.  As seen from Benno's perspective, "Life on Rosenstrasse would never be the same."