5/18/23 Tree of Life Mama’s Picture Book of the Week: The Tower of Life by Chana Stiefel and Illustrated by Susan Gal

This is such a beautiful book! It is a true story, based on the life of Yaffa Eliach. Yaffa was born and raised in a small Jewish village in Poland. She had a wholesome, innocent life as she and her village firends played in the woods, swiming and chasing each other in the summer and skating and sledding in the winter. As she grew, she happily helped her Grandmother Alte photograph the village people. Her grandmother had a camera which was somewhat of a rarity back then. Brides, bar mitzvah boys, and babies all showed up to have their photos taken at Grandma’s studio. People sent their photos to loved ones to share their happy faces. This idyllic life, however, ended abruptly. When she was 11, Yaffa’s family had to leave because the Nazi German army invaded their little town. In an instant 2300 were killed. The others fled for their lives. Decades later, Yaffa made it her life’s work to make sure these people who were killed or scattered by the war were not forgotten by finding all the photographs she could of them. Yaffa honored the memories of these people by creating a tower of photos for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to be a permanent exhibit.

I love that the book includes the real photos of some of the people from Yaffa’s village. The lovely illustrations by Susan Gal add just the right emotional touch to the story. The end of the book has a vertical orientation of a two-page-spread to show the Tower of Faces that Yaffa created at the museum. For those children who already know about the Holocaust, this is a great picture book to add to their knowledge. For those who don’t know anything about it, this is a great way to introduce the difficult-to-understand subject. Because of the subject, it’s for children at least age 7.

Below is a video of the author introducing the book. This book was published in 2022 and it has already won several awards, as you can see when you visit the author at her website here. It has a teacher’s guide with discussion questions and activities based on the book.

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