Written by Rebecca Upjohn, The Secret of the Village Fool may seem like a rather unlikely title for a children’s book. However, as they say, don’t judge a book by its
cover, er, title. Anyway…
While the story here is sensitive, it takes place in Poland during World War II, just as the Nazis are invading a small village, the themes that it takes on are universal. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes not just the superheroes we see in the movies or in fact the movies stars themselves or athletes. Sometimes heroes are those that we least expect – very ordinary people who are called upon to do extraordinary things in times of often great danger to themselves personally.
Such was the case here with Anton, the so called village fool, who people thought different, because…he talked to his animals and plants. One family, however, felt differently, and they looked after him, the mother would send her boys with soup, made only from vegetables ( he was a vegetarian),as a gift to Anton.
Without telling you the whole story this family was Jewish, and as the Nazis entered the village, Anton made a plan to save them. What bravery and courage he showed!
After the war, the family kept in touch, even as they left Poland for America. Eventually Anton’s letters stopped, and they thought he must have died but they searched one more time and found that he was still alive, but this time he needed their help.
René Benoit has done a fabulous job, I think, of bringing to life the story of Anton and the Zeiger family. As an added bonus we get a “What happened after” story with photographs of Anton and the Zeigers and even one of the entrance to the root cellar where Anton hid them.
Don’t miss this opportunity to read about an important part of the history of the world in a book that makes a difficult subject,World War II, the Holocaust, accessible and understandable to even elementary school age children.