Very few people have heard of Francesco Tirelli, one of the multitude of unsung heroes and heroines of World War II. Nor have they heard about how this Italian gelato aficionado emigrated to Hungary, opened a successful ice cream parlor in the middle of Budapest, and, years later, quietly saved many of his Jewish friends and neighbors.
But if author Tamar Meir has her way, Tirelli’s obscurity will become a thing of the past.
A touching nonfiction picture story book for middle grade readers ages 7-12, this moving tale shows how one person’s courage can make all the difference in the world. Much in keeping with Francesco’s quiet heroism, Meir’s tale of delicious desserts across cultures and intergenerational friendship—along with Yael Albert’s gentle color illustrations—merely hints at the horrors behind the history, without glossing over events.
As the story goes, during the last winter of the war, when the Jews of Budapest were in great peril and the demand for ice cream low, Francesco Tirelli hid local Jewish residents in his shop—including his young friend and ice cream lover, Peter—thus saving their lives. Embedded in the book as an extra layer is a Hanukkah story, but frankly, that’s icing on this book’s ice cream cake.
Francesco Tirelli’s Ice Cream Shop closes with a brief but welcome epilogue about World War II and the Holocaust. There we discover that the author is the daughter-in-law of Peter, the young ice cream lover that Francesco Tirelli saved all those many years ago.
Francesco Tirelli’s Ice Cream Shop
Written by Tamar Meir and illustrated by Yael Albert
Translated from the Hebrew by Noga Appelbaum
Kar-Ben Publishing, 2019
Award-winning opera singer Nanette McGuinness is the translator of over 50 books and graphic novels for children and adults from French, Italian, and German into English, including the well-known Geronimo Stilton Graphic Novels. Two of her latest translations, Luisa: Now and Then (Humanoids, 2018) and California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas (First Second, 2017) were chosen for YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens. Her most recent translations are Who Killed Kenny (NBM Publishing, 2019) and The Sisters, vol 5: M.Y.O.B (Papercutz, 2019).