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The Picture Book Buzz

The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

What a crazy week. In addition to biggest snow storm in Western Washington, since 2012 and of course politics, two of my favorite bookstore branches closed. I loved these stores. My family loved these stores. One had a beautiful fireplace and held wonderful author events, both individual signings and SCBWI events. It was also a great place for critique group meetings. I often found treasures there that were not in other bookstores. The second store was where my kids and I celebrated the Harry Potter midnight releases. These were neighborhood bookstores that played a big part in our family's life. They will be missed and their closing will be mourned.

While I wondered through a sale at one closing event, I ran across a picture book that reminded of a chapter book (Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan) I read with my kids years back about a legend of children hiding their country's gold bars on their sleds & sliding past the Nazis to the harbor. Both of these books, highlight King Christian X and the Danish people's willingness to stand up to the bullying, bigotry, and hatred of the Nazis. Sadly, actions and courage like that may be required again. Only this time, in the "land of the free." Although an older picture book, it and it's tale is still heartbreakingly relevant.

The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark

Author: Carmen Agra Deedy

Illustrator: Henri Sorensen

Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (2000)

Age: 8-12 (Accelerated Reader 3.7)

Historical Fiction


History, Holocaust, diversity, Jewish history, human rights, bigotry, and bravery.

Synopsis (from Amazon):

When Nazi soldiers occupied his country, King Christian X of Denmark committed himself to keeping all Danes safe from harm. The bravery of the Danes and their king during that dangerous time has inspired many legends. The most enduring is the legend of the yellow star, which symbolizes the loyalty and fearless spirit of the king and his people. The result is a powerful and dignified story of heroic justice, a story for all people and all times.

Opening Lines:

Early in the year 1940, in the country of Denmark, there were only Danes.

Tall Danes.

Stout Danes.

Old Danes.

Silly Danes.

Cranky Danes.

. . . and even some Great Danes.

But no matter how different from each other they seemed, the Danes held one thing in common: all were loyal subjects of their beloved King Christian.

Why I like this book:

The author makes it clear in the title and back matter that this is a legend. While it has been repeated orally and mentioned in other books, no document has been found that authenticates this tale. However, does that make it less interesting, less thought provoking, or less relevant? I think, that The Yellow Star, whether true or not, highlights the bravery of the Danish king and people. As a country, they saved over 7,000 Jews (the largest number of any occupied country). it is one of the few countries that resisted Hitler and his hatred. And given King Christian X's documented obstruction and resistance of Nazis, whether totally true or not, it highlights his character and that of the Danish people.

Text © Carmen Agra Deedy, 2000. Image © Henri Sorensen. 2000.

Soernsen's touching oil paintings capture the era, people, and emotion of the times, with individual portraits and street scenes. Juxtaposing muted colors when dealing with the Nazis oppression, with colorful spreads showing the Danish people's communal strength. Instead of diluting the importance of the Danish people's stand against Hitler. Deedy demonstrates their numerous small victories, removing the swastika from the palace and refusing to accept bigotry. According to the legend, when the Nazis ordered the Danish Jews to wear yellow stars, the King and all his people donned yellow stars. "And, once again, in the country of Denmark, there were only Danes."

This book is an important reminder than standing together, a community can resist, preserve, and oppose bigotry, fear, and discrimination. A reminder that we can accomplish so much when we work as a community. I found it inspirational and challenging. Would Americans make the same choice to stand up for another's rights and freedoms?

Related Activities:

- Useful for Holocaust studies in the older grades (5-8th).

- Check out the Teacher's Guide by Peachtree.

- Additional activity/lesson plans.

- Pair with Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan, and talk about the Danish children's role in helping resist the Nazis.

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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