Picture Book Review: The Tower of Life

In “The Tower of Life: How Yaffa Eliach Rebuilt Her Town in Stories and Photographs” picture book, Yaffa is a girl who cherishes her family, home, and the lively Polish town of Eishyshok. She enjoys helping her Grandma Alte in her photography studio, where they capture special moments for the town’s people. These photos were often sent to family overseas with well-wishes and soon most of the townspeople wanted Yaffa’s grandmother to take their photos.

tower of life book cover showing young girl on a yellow background holding photographs

Publisher provided a ARC for review, however all thoughts and opinions our own. This post contains affiliate links.  We earn a small commission for items purchased.

However, everything changes when Nazi soldiers invade, wiping out almost 3,500 Jewish residents, including Yaffa’s loved ones. Yaffa is able to escape to the woods with her immediate family and they were hidden by a farmer. Before escaping to safety Yaffa is able to save a few photos of her family in her shoe, the last remnants of the life they had before the war.

After the war and when she is an adult, Yaffa dedicates her life to finding and collecting thousands of these lost photographs from all over the world. She creates the “Tower of Faces” exhibit at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum to honor and remember the vibrant community of Eishyshok.

The Tower of Life: How Yaffa Eliach Rebuilt Her Town in Stories and Photographs” is a picture book for children and I found it interesting how the story is presented, with paragraphs a few sentences long and Susan Gal’s illustrations that are reminiscent of drawings with crayon coloring. The story isn’t well known outside of the Jewish community but it’s a fascinating one that documents the journey of a woman whose goal is to recreate the vibrancy of her childhood community with actual photos of townspeople, most of which did not survive the German invasion. Some of the saddest portions of the book are presented with lots of black and red, especially the scene when the German soldiers round up the Jewish community or when Yaffa and her family are hiding out in a dirt basement.

The Tower of Life” does a fantastic job of teaching young readers the story of Yaffa and the importance of creating something beautiful out of a horrible thing like war. Author Chana Stiefel creates a simplified version of this true tale in an authentic way for young readers to learn about.

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