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The Picture Book Buzz

Hidden Hope - Perfect Picture Book Buzz #PPBF

Poignant, hopeful, and honest, this gorgeous biography highlights Jacqueline Gauthier's bravery and determination to resist and rescue in an inspiring account of heroism during the Holocaust.

Hidden Hope: How a Toy and a Hero Saved Lives During the Holocaust

Author: Elisa Boxer

Illustrator: Amy June Bates

Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers (2023)

Ages: 5- 9



Hope, heroism, selflessness, Holocaust, resistance, and Nazis


The remarkable true story of how a toy duck smuggled forged identity papers for Jewish refugees during WWII.

During World War II, a social worker named Jacqueline bicycled through the streets of Paris, passing Nazi soldiers and carrying a toy duck to share with the children she visited. What the Nazis didn’t know, however, was that Jacqueline wasn’t a social worker at all, but a Jewish member of the French Resistance.

Families across Europe went into hiding as the Nazis rounded up anyone Jewish. The Star of David, a symbol of faith and pride, became a tool of hate when the Nazis forced people to wear the star on their clothing and carry papers identifying them as Jewish, so that it was clear who to arrest. But many brave souls dared to help them.

Jacqueline was one of them. She risked her life in secret workshops, where forgers created false identity papers. But how to get these life-saving papers to families in hiding? The toy duck held the answer.

Written by award-winning journalist Elisa Boxer and movingly illustrated by the acclaimed Amy June Bates, Hidden Hope, a true story, celebrates everyday heroism, resilience, the triumph of the human spirit, and finding hope in unexpected places.

Opening Lines:

“Hide! Quick!”

Hearts pounding,

breath quickening,

feet scrambling.

Down into damp basements,

up into old attics,

crammed into dark closets.

What I LOVED about this book:

This powerful, lyrical opening is accompanied by an equally powerful opening illustration.

Text © Elisa Boxer, 2023. Image © Amy June Bates, 2023.

During the Second World War,

the first priority for Jewish people

was staying out of sight.

Because during the Second World War,

the first priority for Nazis

was getting rid of Jewish people.

Written with a wonderful lyricism and clear, concise language the "what" will be understandable by a wide age range, while the "why" may not necessarily be explainable or understandable for the younger kids. Though I'm still not sure I can entirely fathom the "why." Elisa Boxer does a magnificent job putting the reader into the fear, the determined resistance, and the flickers of hope that existed in 1940's France.

After hiding her own family, teenager Jacqueline Gauthier (aka Judith Geller), determinedly worked with the French Resistance to bring hope and freedom to everyone she could. Using a " wooden duck with an orange beak and wheels and wings" and "Hope in a hollow," one of many ways that the resistance smuggled new identities to Jewish families to help them escape the Nazis, Jacqueline pedaled all over Paris putting her own life in danger. Afterall, who would ever suspect a child's toy carried by a "Christian social worker."

Text © Elisa Boxer, 2023. Image © Amy June Bates, 2023.

I love the loose lines and muted palette of Amy June Bates' watercolor, gouache, and pencil illustrations. And the way she visually contrasts the dark, foreboding fear (and horror) of the Nazi occupation with the peachish glow of hope. Interspersing moments of caring and hope within the aggressively brutal reality of bigotry and oppression.

Text © Elisa Boxer, 2023. Image © Amy June Bates, 2023.

And I adore the repeated phrase "where people could live and learn and play and pray free from capture." Which occurs in this spread, as many escape into Spain, and again near the end when Paris is liberated.

Even after the heart-pounding moment when a Nazi stopped her and discovered the duck, though ultimately dismissed it as a toy, Jaqueline gathered herself and continued "riding, resisting, rescuing." She and the duck saved over two hundred people. One of the most poignant parts of the book is the ending. Amid a confetti hail of torn false papers, the text notes that the Nazis tried to cover up who they were and what they'd done hoping everyone would forget - "But the world remembers."

This is a powerful, vivid reminder of what we must never forget. And an empowering look at a valiant teenager who proved that heroes come in all ages, and everyone can make a difference. The author and illustrator notes beautifully explain their sources, were the little duck currently resides, and a little more about Judith Geller and her life. It is a wonderful nonfiction addition to any collection.


- make an egg-carton duck. Then using another cup or part of the lid, create wheels and a fake bottom to make your own hidden compartment duck.

- if you had to change your name, what name would you choose? Why?

- how can you resist and rescue in your daily life? How can we be sure the world never forgets?

- pair this with Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan and The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark by Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrated by Henri Sorensen.

If you missed the interview with Elisa Boxer on Monday, find it (here).

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


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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