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Children's Nonfiction Holocaust

The Promise

by (author) Pnina Bat Zvi & Margie Wolfe

illustrated by Isabelle Cardinal

Second Story Press
Initial publish date
Apr 2018
Holocaust, Prejudice & Racism, Europe
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2018
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Apr 2018
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 9 to 12
  • Grade: 3 to 6
  • Reading age: 9 to 12


The night that Rachel and Toby’s parents are taken away by the Nazis, they give their young daughters three gold coins with the instructions to “use these wisely to help save your lives.” They also ask the girls to promise that they will always stay together. This compelling true story follows the sisters as they confront the daily horrors of Auschwitz, protecting one another, sharing memories, fears, and even laughter—always together. But when Rachel becomes ill and is taken away by Nazi guards, likely forever, Toby risks her own life and uses the well-hidden gold coins to rescue her little sister.

About the authors

Pnina Bat Zvi is a host of a morning radio program and a journalist in Tel Aviv. Pnina was also a documentarian for radio and television and has written one previous adult book. A mother of twin sons herself, she is the daughter of Rachel.

Pnina Bat Zvi's profile page

Margie Wolfe has worked in feminist book publishing for almost forty years. She has co-edited several book collections including Still Ain't Satisfied: Canadian Feminism Today, No Safe Place: Violence Against Women and Children, Found Treasures: Stories by Yiddish Women Writers, and From Memory to Transformation: Jewish Women’s Voices. She and three other women founded Second Story Feminist Press in 1988.

Margie Wolfe's profile page


Isabelle Cardinal est illustratrice depuis dix-sept ans et vit à Montréal. Au fil des années, elle a développé un style unique d'illustration numérique au moyen d'images de l'époque victorienne, auxquelles elle ajoute ses propres photos, dessins et textures.


Isabelle Cardinal has been an illustrator for 17 years. Her style emerged through the years as her original way of doing digital collage. Using mostly a collection of Victorian era photos, her own textures, photos, and drawings, her work has a unique and mysterious feel. She lives in Trois-Riviè;res, Québec.

Isabelle Cardinal's profile page


  • Commended, Canadian Children's Book Centre Best Books of 2018
  • Short-listed, Hackmatack Children’s Choice Book Award 2019-2020

Editorial Reviews

"Because Rachel and Toby were real people, young readers can empathize and sympathize, but the story does not try to help them understand the Holocaust: That is beyond human comprehension. Harrowing, moving, and filled with questions that cannot be answered but must be asked. STARRED REVIEW"

Kirkus Reviews

"The Promise is a heart-warming story about the power of love in the most difficult of times...It should be in the collection of every school and public library."

Resource Links

"A compelling story of love, devotion and perseverance in the face of horrific circumstances, this book belongs on the shelves of every school, church and synagogue library."

Canadian Jewish News

"An unusual, powerful look at the horrors of life in the camps and the courage and resilience of those who survived."

Publishers Weekly

"Based on a true story, The Promise reveals just one significant but uncelebrated act of heroism during a time and place of brutality. It's a story that needs to be recognized and its characters acclaimed for their survival."

CanLit for LittleCanadians

"[B]rings to life the horror that so many truly experienced during WWII. The fear, labor, defiance, and love are illustrated with full-page pictures that blend photos and drawings in grays, browns, and blues to express terror and hope. ... The sisters' use of their only worldly bribe the Nazis into allowing them to reunite with each other when one of them falls ill is a stunning story, and the extensive use of dialogue adds to the impact."


"The book serves as a thought-provoking addition to others in the genre..."

AJL Reviews

"...a sensitive, sophisticated picture book that can be used for older children as well. Pnina Bat Zvi and Margie Wolfe have captured both the sense of terror the children lived with every moment as well as the reservoir of devotion and courage that enabled Toby to stand up to a guard.... The Promise tells a terrible story, but one that ends optimistically. It should be added to classroom collections and school libraries to help children learn about the past so society does prevent the rise of racism, nationalism and fascism as those who experienced the horrors of World War II intended. Highly recommended."

CM: Canadian Review of Materials

"The authenticity of the story and family pictures taken in better times make it a compelling read. It is not an easy account for children to understand, but it is a profound one that will provoke discussion. It reflects the extremes of evil and sacrifice of which mankind if capable, and reveals a spark of compassion in even the harshest individual."

Canadian Children's Booknews

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