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The Cats in Krasinski Square

The Cats in Krasinski Square
by Karen Hesse & Wendy Watson

summary, reading levels, a peek
inside, and more

The Cats in Krasinski Square is a great early introduction to the Holocaust for children, as the focus is on the sacrifice and courage of Nazi resisters rather than on the terrible atrocities that took place. Inspired by a true story, this lyrically written picture book tells the story of a young girl who lives in Nazi- occupied Warsaw (Poland). She has escaped the city's Jewish ghetto, but is always fearful that her Jewish heritage will be discovered. When in public, she reminds herself to "wear my Polish look... walk my Polish walk..." She passes her days with the many abandoned cats that roam the city streets, playing with them and observing the holes that they pass through to move in and out of the ghetto area. She tells her sister, a member of the Jewish resistance, about the holes and they determine to use them to pass much needed food to the starving residents of the ghetto. But when the Gestapo learn about the resistance's food shipment arriving via train, the soldiers bring dogs to sniff out the food crates and stop the relief effort. Just as it seems that their relief effort has been thwarted, the girl remembers of her feline friends and realizes that they can use them to distract the dogs so the shipment can be retrieved.

While the backdrop of the story is tragic, the ending is happy and the courage and ingenuity of the young girl will leave the reader uplifted. In a starred review, Booklist called The Cats in Krasinski Square "an empowering story about the bravery and impact of young people."

Reading Stats
Interest Level: Gr. 3-5         D.R.A. Level: 39
Reading Level: age 9-12      Lexile Measure: AD990

Great for teaching 
service / helping others / self-sacrifice (Character Educ.)
the Holocaust (History)        cats (Special Interests)
Holocaust Remembrance Day (Calendar)   

Awards & Rating

Nat'l Council for Social Studies Notable Book 2011
Avg Amazon Customer Rating:
5 stars (21 reviews)
The Cats in Krasinski Square

Peek Inside
Below are two illustrations from inside The Cats in Krasinski Square. All of the illustrations are muted and "bathed in a warm yellow light–a kind of innocent luminescence of hope that belies the evil that is being done." (SLJ)  Perhaps it may seem odd to have such sweet and gentle illustrations, given the seriousness of the subject matter, but since this is a children's book about a very tragic, even scary subject, it seems like a very appropriate choice of illustration style. (Imagine the impact of this story if the illustrations were dark and chaotic, drawn with thick lines and harsh angles!)

The Cats in Krasinski Square

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