erika's story

Erika's Story is one woman's account of the tragedy of the Holocaust. Erika is a survivor who recalls the difficult decisions her parents had to make and how those decisions have affected her life. Erika has a quiet hope and confidence which is sure to inspire readers. The exquisite illustrations of Roberto Innocenti are poignant and moving. The combination of words and pictures in this book speak not only to the reader's head but also to the heart. The foreign rights to Erika's Story have been sold in eleven countries. 

Ruth Vander Zee • author

Roberto Innocenti illustrator

Creative Editions, Mankato, Minnestoa
ISBN 1-56846-176-3


  • Student Acitivities Guide

A downloadable 32 page student activities guide for Erika’s Story is available here: Student Activities Guide MS word Format

  • A Wall Of Stars

To create a wall of 6,000,000 stars, based on one of the activities in Student Activities Guide, click on10,000 stars

This curriculum includes historical backgrounds of the Holocaust with corresponding worksheets on two reading ability levels.

Also included are writing, math, and hands-on activities to be used with Erika’s Story.
Hard copies of the student activities guide for Erika’s Story are available for $15.00 (includes shipping and handling). To order call 786-374-7606.


  • Awarded "Best Foreign Picture Book of 2004" in Japan. 
  • Awarded English 4-11 Awards for the Best Children's Illustrated Books of 2004 in Great Britain. 
  • Awarded 2004 Award of Excellence for Book - Communication Arts
  • ERIKA'S STORY has been voted the most successful non fiction title in the UKLA Children's Book Awards 2006. The UKLA Children's Book Awards are distinguished from other book awards by focusing on literacy. Thus the awards are not given solely on the basis of content but also on the means of expression.
  • Emphasis on Reading, 2004-2005, Nominee, Grades 4-6, Alabama


Patmos Verlagshaus: Voted "Best 7 Books" In Germany 2004 Voted "Outstanding Book" In ESELSOHR (Magazine Featuring Children's Books In Germany.)

Miami Herald: Listed in "The Year's Best" - December 6, 2003

BCCB (Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books at the University of Illinois) starred review: 
The finely honed text has a spare lyricism, moving with restrained dignity from the opening author's note through the measured description of Erika's imagined past, to the quiet triumph of her survival and flourishing family life. Innocenti's portraits of the wartime countryside drain the colors until a smoky gray dominates. With a text exquisitely balanced between understated acknowledgment of tragedy and firm faith in the future, the story and presentation offer drama, impact, and simplicity enough to capture readers over a broad range of ages. March, 2004

Booklist: "My mother threw me from the train." A Jewish woman in Germany today tells how, as an infant , she survived the Holocaust after she was thrown from a train on its way to the camp in 1944...the clear, tiny details dramatize both the fragility and the endurance of the infant survivor, as well as the bizarre calm of the "normal" world. November 1, 2003

Horn Book: This large, square picture book would make an effective introduction to the Holocaust...the spare, straightforward narrative, widely spaced to leave blanks as broad as the gaps in Erika's own early history and punctuated by tiny six-pointed stars, effectively complements Innocenti's handsomely composed photorealistic black and white paintings. December, 2003

Miami Herald: Here's a provocative question for a young student of history: Are there any circumstances under which the right thing to do would be to throw a baby from a moving train? The answer, provided in a stunning, sobering, heart-rending new book... is yes. The illustrations by Roberto Innocenti are exquisitely heartbreaking, done in a photo-realistic style. For the right audience, it is a powerful story - one that not only illustrates the depths of Nazi depravity, but the heights of humanity. October 18, 2003

School Library Journal: Vander Zee narrates this true story in the voice of Erika, a woman she encountered in a German village...compelling and powerful in it simplicity, Erika's story proves that determination, hope and goodness can overcome evil...This poignant story of survival deserves a wide audience. December, 2003