An illustrated book for ages 6-10, The Story of Bodri* is based on the experiences of Swedish-Romanian Hédi Fried. A teenager when she was sent to Auschwitz, author Fried lectures today on racism, democracy, and the Holocaust. She was inspired to write The Story of Bodri when a young attendee at one of her talks asked about what happened to the family dog.
The story tells of Hédi and her best friend and next-door neighbor, Marika, who love to play together, as do their dogs Bodri and Bandi:
We both loved dogs and whipped cream and climbing right up to the top of the walnut tree…
We knew all the best hiding places, where to find the juiciest plums, and that we had to watch out for the big dog on the other side of the street.
The two children are almost the same height and “really good at whistling.” One is a faster runner; the other is a better reader. After the war starts, they still play together—until Hédi’s family is sent to a concentration camp. Thinking of Bodri and hoping Marika will feed him sustains Hédi as she lives through the horrors that await her. Fried doesn’t gloss over these, although she talks about them in an age-appropriate way, which the watercolor illustrations sketch out starkly. In the end, Hédi survives to be reunited with Bodri.
Fried’s short introductory note to young readers addresses the crux of the matter directly: doing good is a choice, one that each of us must make. And while The Book of Bodri starts pleasantly enough, the bulk of the story unsurprisingly makes for difficult reading.
The Story of Bodri is an important contribution to a special subgenre of children’s literature—books that bear witness to personal experience and historical tragedy, in this case the Holocaust. Do we need another children’s book about the Holocaust? Absolutely. Stories such as this one are crucial, especially as survivors reach old age, assaults on historical truth continue unabated, and the ugliness of xenophobia keeps recurring in human society. Fried writes:
We are here, and we go on telling everyone about what happened.
So that it will never happen again.
These are simple words, directly spoken. But they have a powerful effect in the context of the story. And that’s why we need The Story of Bodri and other books like it. That the book is sweet and touching, despite the horrors it retells, is a welcome bonus.
The Story of Bodri
Written by Hédi Fried
Illustrated by Stina Wirsén
Translated from the Swedish by Linda Schenck
2021, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
Other books (for adults) by Hédi Fried: Questions I Am Asked About the Holocaust, Fragments of a Life, and Back To Life
*Review copy of The Story of Bodri kindly provided by Eerdmans Books for Children.
Award-winning opera singer Nanette McGuinness is the translator of over 60 books and graphic novels for children and adults from French, Italian, German, and Spanish into English, including the well-known Geronimo Stilton Graphic Novels. Two of her recent translations, Luisa: Now and Then and California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas were chosen for YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens; Luisa: Now and Then was also a 2019 Stonewall Honor Book. Her most recent translations are For Justice: The Serge and Beate Klarsfeld Story, The Sisters #7: Lucky Brat, Chloe & Cartoon, Alter Ego and A House Without Windows, which she also assisted in editing.