Title: Twenty and Ten
Author: Claire Huchet Bishop
Major Themes: 20th century, France, Historical Fiction, Second World War
Synopsis: Twenty children must hide ten Jewish children from the Nazis—but without Sister Gabriel to help them, will the Nazis find out where they are?
This is the kind of book that reminds me of the quote Dr. Seuss said years ago (and I quote from memory): “The best children’s books are the ones all ages love reading.” Based on a true story, Twenty and Ten is a children’s book great for 7 – 10 year-olds. But even as an adult, this book is fascinating. All will learn from it.
Janet, now a thirteen-year-old, then an eleven-year-old, tells the story. We can see through her eyes how, after being sent to safety in the country away from the occupying army, twenty school-aged children tried to live normal lives. One day, after playing The Flight into Egypt, the children got in a fight over whether the Holy Family had money and ration cards or not. Sister Gabriel came to stop them in time, and she had startling news: A stranger was there, wanting to speak with the children.
He told them that some Jewish boys and girls needed a safe place to go to like Jesus’ family going to Egypt, and asked if they would be willing to shelter them. “Yes,” the children cried, and soon the tired, hungry Jewish children were brought in. After a while, they settled in. One day, Sister Gabriel went to town and didn’t come back. Instead, two Nazi soldiers came, and the children had to fend for themselves and not betray their new friends.
I love Twenty and Ten because it gives a authentic idea of what it would be like to have been a child during the Second World War. There are no gruesome parts to the story, instead it tells a touching tale of bravery and hope in the face of death. Your children will love this book. It makes a wonderful read-aloud that keeps them asking for “More, Mom, please! Just one more chapter!” It is written with 7 – 12 year olds in mind especially, but all ages will really enjoy it.
WARNING: For very sensitive children, some parts of the story may be scary, but hardly anyone will have any problems with it. This book is very “clean”.
Listening Level—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12
Reading Independently— Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12