Aaron Liebskind, a 7th grader at Bi-Cultural Day School, and his mother Illana Barran, have taken the adage like mother, like son to a new and literary level as they have recently teamed together to publish two children’s books, each with a unique focus, meaning and audience.
Aaron’s book, The Yellow Star is a fictionalized account of his grandfather’s struggle and perseverance during the Holocaust. Paul Liebskind, Aaron’s grandfather who passed away seven years ago, was a young child in Nazi Germany who later escaped with his family to Belgium, where he lived in hiding until the end of the war, inspired Aaron to write this short story.
“I was always interested in my grandfather’s story — my parents began to explain his life to me at a young age,” said Aaron. “As I got older, they would add more details about what really had happened, until I had a full picture of everything that he had been through,” said Aaron. “The older I got, the more questions that I asked.”
Aaron’s questions and the depth of his grandfather’s journey inspired him to write his book, pulled from his grandfather’s actual life events; a story which he crafted on his own over a period of a two years.
Aaron worked with the editors of FriesenPress for editorial revision and collaborated with his mother, who provided the illustrations for the 40-page paperback. “The illustrations were challenging because we wanted to make sure that they added meaning to the story, and there was so much detail; my mom worked with me and drew the pictures based on my own vision,” he added. Barran concurred with her son, “The illustrations were so specific to the story. Aaron identified the number of people in each illustration and what the scene and illustration should entail. He also wanted a light on each page to signify hope. He wanted the illustrations to be black and white, and it was a challenge to make them childlike enough to fit the story theme, but we were all so pleased with the end result.”
Aaron hopes that The Yellow Star, which includes a series of provocative discussion questions, will eventually be used throughout elementary and high schools as a teaching tool for not only Holocaust education, but also kindness and tolerance.
Like Aaron, Barran also drew inspiration for her book, The Survival of the Gingerbread Girl: a Lullaby from a family member — her own daughter Isabelle, a kindergartner at Bi-Cultural. ”I used to sing nursery rhymes to Isabelle when she was a baby. I took the classic Gingerbread Man story and changed it to relate to a little girl, developed a tune to go along with the story, and went with it.”
The entire publishing process for her book, including the development and illustration phase, took about a year. Barran hopes that the book, through its story and accompanying recipes, will appeal to both children and adults and is currently working on three other children’s books.