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24 March 2011

The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark

The Yellow Star:  The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark, written by Carmen Agra Deedy (author of 14 Cows for America) and illustrated by  Henri Sorensen is one of my new favorite historical fiction books.

It is set in 1940's Denmark, around the time of the Nazi occupation.  While the Danish people come in all sizes and shapes, they had two things in common:  they were all Danes, and they were all loyal subjects of King Christian X.  King Christian X was so loved that he rode his horse through the streets of Copenhagen every morning without a bodyguard.  Nobody bothered him.

Soon, the Nazis occupied Denmark, and forced many changes on the Danes, including their flag.  The Nazis tried to fly it from the top of the castle, but everytime they did, King Christian had it removed, until finally, when a Nazi officer threatened to shoot whoever removed it next, King Christian stated that he would be the one to remove it the next day.  It never hung from the palace again.

The Nazis then declared that all Jews had to wear the yellow Star of David on their clothes.  King Christian was upset, and knew that bad things were about to happen.  He realized that the Star of David was the only thing that made the Jewish people look different than other Danes.  He then had the royal tailor sew a Star of David on all his clothes, and soon the rest of the Danes followed.  Once again, they were just Danes, united, not groups divided.

I was very upset when I read the backmatter, and it stated that there is no concrete evidence that this actually happened.

I loved this picture book.  The story is simple, yet powerful.  The message of peace and unity is very clear.  The book is a recipient of the Jane Addams Children's Book Award (given to books that "effectively promote the cause of peace, social justice, world community, and the equality of the sexes and all races as well as meeting conventional standards for excellence.") and the Christopher Award (to "salute media that “affirm the highest values of the human spirit.”").

The artwork by Sorenson is beautifuly painted.  I'm not sure what medium was used (acryllic, etc), but every brushstroke brought the story to life.

As a child, I loved Lois Lowry's book, Number the Stars.  This book is would be a wonderful companion piece to use in the classroom.  You could also use it in a historical fiction unit, or a general thematic unit promoting peace.  If you are not a teacher, it would be a wonderful addition to your home library.  I would call this a "5 star" book.

This book was published in 2000 by Peachtree Publishers.


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