PRAISE FOR MUSIC OF THE BUTTERFLY
"This charming book has many lessons for young readers, the most important of which is to let your imagination fly, as it will keep hope alive even in the darkest of days. By recalling and gaining strength from her imagination, young Renee is able to deflect - and ultimately defeat - Nazi persecution and internment in Auschwitz. The Music of the Butterfly is an important addition to Holocaust literature for the young, and should be a go-to resource for parents and teachers seeking to make this difficult subject understandable to children. The book is a beautiful tribute to one young Holocaust Survivor's mental toughness, and to the memory of her sister who did not survive. May their memories be for an eternal blessing.”
- Fred Zeidman, former Chairman of the Board, U.S. Holocaust Museum, Washington, D.C.
When a survivor’s experiences are written down, told for the purposes of sharing that person’s thoughts and realities, it must be done honestly and well. The Music of the Butterfly: A Story of Hope asks its readers to pay close attention, to think and consider what it was like to be a child of the Holocaust era, to experience the joy of a happy life as a Jewish child, in a warm, loving Hungarian family and then to have your world turned upside down, irrevocably shattered by the Nazis. The experiences of Renee Rosenberg are interwoven with her love of family, appreciation of music and her attentiveness and dreams, as her life was changed by forces beyond her control. The reader learns of the dastardly challenges Renee faced, how she used her inner resolve, and how she survived the war years and went on to live a life filled with love, resilience and music. This is a story that flows around you as a reader or listener, as the music of hope and Renee’s dreams come together in beautiful tones throughout. This is a story, written with love and respect, meant to make us think.
- Dr. Mary Lee Webeck, Director of Education, Holocaust Museum Houston
“Open this book to encounter pages of illustrations detailing the butterfly life cycle, seasons of the year, and musical notes floating in the wind. Read about the story of a girl who survived the Holocaust by using her imagination to transport herself to a world of beauty and butterflies. Music of the Butterfly tells us that love can conquer hate, that hope can diminish fear, and that resilience can be the difference between success and failure and even life and death. This is a book for all ages - for young readers to begin to learn the lessons of life and for older readers to be reminded of them.”
- Principal Jeanne Goka-Dubose, Ann Richard’s school for Young Women Leaders.
"This touching story reminds us of the power of hope and the beautiful places our imagination can take us. Students will be able to relate to Renee's journey and fears while learning about the difficult realities of children during the Holocaust."
- Sehba Ali, Superintendent of KIPP Houston Public Schools
“It’s sad, but amazingly inspirational.”
- Isabella Caruso, 5th grader, River Oaks Baptist School
BOOK REVIEWS FOR MUSIC OF THE BUTTERFLY
Jewish Book Council: Review for Music of the Butterfly
By Michal Hoschander Malen, Editor of Children and Young Adult Literature
"The butterfly is a symbol of freedom, soaring colorfully, magically above our trouble-laden world. After the publication of the famous poem written by a child in Theresienstadt searching for another butterfly after he had seen the very last one, it has evoked for many an image of the elusive freedom denied to children caught in Hitler's grip during the terrible years of Holocaust. The Holocaust Museum of Houston's Butterfly Project also memorializes children lost in Shoah using butterflies as image of freedom and hope. In this beautifully illustrated and touchingly told story, the butterfly once again appears as a symbol of carefree days filled with color and light in the childhood memory of a survivor named Renee Rosenberg Danziger. READ MORE
“A Republic, if You Can Keep It”
By Robert Barnard O’Connor, Jr., PhD
Every once in a while one encounters a book that is, simultaneously: deeply moving and critically important. “Music of the Butterfly” is such a book. It tells the story of a young Jewish girl who lived in what is today Romania during the time of the Holocaust, a time when her safe, happy world suddenly became a nightmare. How she managed to survive using her imagination to conjure up butterflies and beautiful music whenever her life seemed unbearable is the central theme of the book.
The book’s co-authors, Leis and Klein and illustrator, Hardwick, working as a team, have put together a thoughtful, nuanced and important work that offers, through simple story-telling, a glimpse into one of the most gruesome periods of history. Many books have been written about the Holocaust but the great importance of “Music” is that it is one of the few written for children of an age when their minds are still malleable and when the lessons of history can take deep root. It’s important, also, because of the message of hope it offers for coping with very dark times.
How the story is told is compelling. The narrator throughout the book is Renee Rosenberg Danziger, survivor of the Holocaust and mother of co-author Klein. Except for when Renee introduces herself as a grandmother in the beginning, the voice we hear initially and the images we see are those of Renee when she was eight to ten years old. Upon entry to the camps, the voice and image shift, almost unnoticed, to those of Renee as a teenager and then, upon release, to the voice of an adult. Although Lili, Renee’s younger sister, implicitly is part of the story, the child reader never has to confront directly her death in the gas chambers. To the adult reader, however, the photograph in the dedication and the knowledge that Lili dies make this story especially poignant and powerful.
For anyone reading “Music”, its authenticity is confirmed by Elie Wiesel’s gut-wrenching memoir, “Night”. He was a little younger than Renee, came from the same town, Sighet, and was probably deported to Auschwitz at about the same time as she in 1944.
“Music” is a story of stark contrasts mostly as seen through the eyes of a child. As the story opens, we see a world of love, family, warmth and beauty. Then, suddenly and without warning, a dark shadow crosses and it becomes a world of almost indescribable harshness, a world of cattle cars, snarling dogs, guns and a transcendentally cruel demagogue. Through the darkness, life is sustained only by flickering childhood memories of a beautiful parallel world of butterflies, music and hope. Finally, almost as suddenly as it appeared, the shadow passes and there emerges a shining, welcoming world, America, and a new life. It’s both a moving apotheosis and a clarion warning we should never forget.
There have been many mass murders throughout history, most of which we associate with a named tyrant or demagogue. Many millions of ordinary human beings, beyond those ascribed to the Holocaust, have died in them, but, sadly, individual stories of the victims are rarely recorded and are thus forgotten. That we may learn from their fates is the principal reason why “Music” and the many other documented accounts of the Holocaust are so important.
Could a Holocaust happen here in the United States? The answer, I believe, is that it’s possible but unlikely in the same exact form. Our Constitution is not perfect. It was flawed by compromises made at time of enactment and has been amended 27 times. A bloody Civil War was the result of its initial lack of inclusivity. Just how secure we are today depends critically on three necessary conditions; namely, how well we can maintain political independence of the main branches of government as defined in the Constitution, how well we understand the economic and social systems that govern every aspect of our daily life and, finally, how fairly we treat our citizens, economically and socially. In recent years our democracy has become increasingly dysfunctional through political impasse, rising partisanship and electoral anger. This is evidenced by its failure to pass needed legislation, fill vacant administrative and judicial positions and by its becoming deeply involved in wars for which there is not, or was not, full popular understanding and support. Either in this or in one of the next several election cycles, we see the possibility of a demagogue becoming our president, opening the door to possible loss of constitutional democracy and, consequently, to wildly unpredictable social and economic turmoil.
In 1787 at the close of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, a lady asked Benjamin Franklin, “Do we have a Republic or a Monarchy?” His reply was, “A Republic, if you can keep it”. Clearly, the best answer to his admonition is, and has always been, universal education on how our democracy works and on the responsibilities of its citizens to preserve and protect it. To be really effective, this education must begin early in a child’s life with the objective teaching of historical events and it must not shy away from their dark side. To serve that need, I believe “Music” should be part of the curriculum of every elementary school in the country. In time, its reach should extend far beyond.
Out of one of the most terrible periods in history comes this modest, and moving book that offers us a powerful vehicle for teaching the danger that rule by a demagogue presents. In importance it ranks with that of “The Diary of Anne Frank” because it is written in the voice of a young person to the young, because of its appreciation for this remarkable democracy of ours and because of its message of hope. It can, if widely taught, provide inspiration for our children as they become adults to work ever more diligently to preserve that democracy. It can, if widely taught, provide an exceptionally effective tool to use in responding to Franklin’s prescient admonition.