In a recent piece, “How to Talk to Your Kids About Charlottesville,” New York Times children’s book editor Maria Russo featured Jennifer Elvgren’s The Whispering Town among “children’s books about people — including kids — who helped in the fight against Nazis and against racism here in the U.S.”
Based on a true story, The Whispering Town tells the story of a brave child named Anett in Nazi-occupied Denmark. Anett and her parents hide a Jewish boy, Carl, and his mother in their cellar until a fishing boat can take them across the water to safety in neutral Sweden.
Kar-Ben’s Q&A with the Author
The picture book was published in 2014 under Lerner’s Jewish imprint, Kar-Ben Publishing. Kar-Ben reached out to Jennifer, who lives 20 miles from Charlottesville, to talk about the book.
Kar-Ben: Where did you get the inspiration for The Whispering Town?
Elvgren: In Ellen Levine’s nonfiction book Darkness Over Denmark, she talks about people whispering directions so a Jewish man could find the harbor on a dark night to escape to Sweden. That image leapt off the page and set me to dreaming about an entire town that whispered to save someone. The title came before the story.
Then I asked myself the following questions: Who would think of the whispering? Who would be saved by the whispering? And the plot started to come.
Praise for The Whispering Town
★ “Both author and illustrator do an excellent job of bringing both the horror and humanity of this story to a level younger children can understand. . . . An unusual and strong addition to Holocaust literature.”—starred, Booklist
★ “[H]ighly recommended for . . . its gentle look at a difficult past that cannot be ignored.”—starred, Jewish Book World
“Serious subject matter is handled appropriately and delicately in this picture book, and dark, somber illustrations set the tone while still including notes of hopefulness.” —The Horn Book
“Based on real events that unfolded in the Danish fishing town of Gilleleje, it’s a story that feels urgent and refreshingly unsentimental.” —Publishers Weekly
“This uncomplicated narrative of Danish resistance will facilitate teaching and discussion of a difficult yet necessary subject.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Santomauro’s thoughtful illustrations, with their restrained colors, subtly remind the reader of the village’s determined solidarity.” —New York Times Book Review