The Missing: The True Story of My Family in World War II
Publisher: Walker Books
When Michael Rosen was a child, there were family stories about great aunts and great uncles in France and Poland who were there before the war and not there afterwards. When the young Michael asked what happened, his family would reply that they didn't know. How could it be that people could just disappear?
As an adult, Michael spent many years tracing his missing great uncles and aunts, and this book is the result.
A fascinating family memoir and a very personal story about terrible loss, The Missing describes the impact of the Holocaust on one family, and in doing so, shows children that what happened to the Rosens – the missing great uncles and aunts, but also the displacement of the rest of the family, and their grief for the missing – also happened to millions of others.
There is heartbreaking and horrifying detail here, when Rosen describes the packed trains of Jews being taken to Auschwitz, the air thick with children crying, and gives us the plain facts about how few of those people survived until the liberation of the camp in 1945. Yet, Rosen handles the difficult topic as sensitively and thoughtfully as you would expect, always writing in a straightforward and accessible way for children, interspersed with his own poetry.
The fact that this is a personal story means that it provides a relatable pathway into the overwhelming event of the Holocaust for young readers (and for adults, too). It's important that children and adults understand and empathise with the real people and their stories underneath the sometimes incomprehensible numbers and scale that history presents us when talking about the Holocaust.
The Missing also contains an excellent selection of recommended fiction, picture book and non-fiction reading about World War Two and the Holocaust, as well as books with themes of refugees and displacement more widely.