$18.95 Hardcover with full colour illustrations

36 Pages • 8.5" x 11"

Ages: 7+

Reading Levels

Guided Reading Level: S

The Secret of the Village Fool

by: Rebecca Upjohn
illustrated by: Renné Benoit

The true story of an unexpected hero

Munio and his younger brother Milek live in a sleepy village in Poland where nothing exciting seems to happen. One of their neighbors is a poor man named Anton, who is so gentle that he won’t eat meat and he won’t harm so much as a fly. While the rest of the town makes fun of Anton, the boys’ mother is kind to him, often sending her reluctant sons with soup and clothing for the “fool” that no one respects.

When war comes to their country, everything changes. The Nazi soldiers come marching into the town and begin to round up Jewish boys like Milek and Munio. Anton worries about them and their parents, and comes up with a plan to hide the family in his own home, putting his life at risk without a thought.

Anton’s courage and kindness shine through, proving that fierce bravery can come from the most gentle of people.

Includes a special section of photographs


Book Trailer Remembering Anton Answering Readers' Questions


Winner: 2014 Silver Birch Express Award
Finalist: 2014 Golden Oak Award

Bank Street's "The Best Children's Books of the Year, 2013" (Five to Nine category).



"Modern children are so far removed from the Holocaust that it is extremely difficult to convey its horrors. Upjohn makes this true story personal, immediate and accessible without resorting to bathos or sentimentality. Benoit’s sepia-tinted, ominously shadowed illustrations convey darkness, fear and uncertainty...Powerful and deeply moving." -Kirkus Reviews

"This picture book introduces a very difficult topic to young children. It could be used to explore themes of tolerance and acceptance of different beliefs and customs within a community, and discrimination on a larger scale using the holocaust as one example." -Canadian Teacher Magazine

"With a reporter’s eye for action and detail, she brings alive the horror, deprivation, and even boredom that the hidden Jews face while Anton, who never sheds his oddness, bravely denies their presence to both the Germans and the anti-Semitic villagers." - Publisher's Weekly

"The stellar illustrations in muted greys and browns capture the sense of dread and hopelessness that pervades the town. The story has obvious tie-ins to history, world religion and culture and is remembered and honoured at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum in Jerusalem. This poignant story of terror and loss is ultimately a moving story of heroism and hope." - Professionally Speaking

"The content is delivered in easy to understand and compassionate language. Further, the story provides teachable moments surrounding human nature." - CM Magazine

"This book is a great introduction to the second world war and recent European history, as well as a heartwarming story of how standing up for your beliefs in the face of opposition is a heroic thing to do. Benoit's illustrations are great at bringing the reader into the time period and also for creating a feeling of empathy with the worried young people." -Perogies & Gyoza Book Blog

"The Secret of the Village Fool, well told, beautifully illustrated and expertly researched (timeline, facts & photographs included in the after), belongs in your library." - Jewish Kids Book Circle

"Sometimes we forget that true stories like this are actually true. There is a straight line from these young boys pre-war, through their wartime experiences, to the photographic record which follows the narrative. When the reality of that fully strikes the reader, it’s overwhelming...This is why people tell stories. This is why we read them. To remind us of the wonder in our world." -Buried in Print

"The Secret of the Village Fool was a great educational children's book. Not only will the children like it for the eye catching illustrations and interesting story line but adults will like it as well because it teaches factual information about WWII." -Kayla's Reads and Reviews

"A true story, showing courage and kindness during a time of war." -Polish American Journal

"This picture book is a good starting place for introducing children to the Holocaust. They will learn that Jewish people were hated by the Nazis, that people for forced out of their homes and send away, that children and parents were sometimes separated, and that neighbors either looked the other way or colluded with the Nazis. But they will also see that not everyone agreed with what was happening, that there was a minority who didn't and some who even risked their lives to help." -The Children's War

"An excellent spring board in understanding oppression and social justice, humanitarianism, the Holocaust in World War II and the courage of people to stand up and fight for right, this book is highly recommended for inclusion in school and classroom libraries." - Resource Links

"Ms. Upjohn wrote a phenomenal story in words and terms children can understand. Add Benoit’s extraordinary artwork that imagines in detail what this family went through, and the book becomes an extraordinary slice of World War II." - Kid Lit Reviews

"The story is a tearjerker in all the right ways—neither overtly didactic nor overly sentimental. It, nevertheless, both teaches history and illustrates human compassion in unexpected places with its moving, straight­forward narrative. ... This is a great book for elemen­tary school age children who are learning about the Holocaust and is sure to provoke much discussion. Highly recommended for ages 8 and up. Starred Review." - Jewish Book World

"The Secret of the Village Fool shows Anton to be not a fool, but an angel, especially to those whose lives he saved and to their children, grandchildren and others they were able to touch. And to those of us fortunate enough to read this story." - CanLit for Little Canadians Blog


Reading Levels

Guided Reading Level: S

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