The Missing is a short but powerful book in which Michael Rosen tells the story of how he uncovered the hidden history of his family in the Second World War.
Oscar and Morris Rosen, respectively a clock-mender and a dentist, disappeared from the Rosen family history in the 1940s – ‘They were there at the beginning of the war, and they weren’t there at the end’. Michael Rosen describes his seemingly impossible search to find out what happened to these two men. In doing so, he shows how individuals matter in a world that can easily paint our collective history in a series of very broad brush strokes, how we must care about the stories of those who went before us and the stories of those with whom we share our lives today.
As teachers, how can we help children to understand the magnitude of the Holocaust? Echoing this question in his interview with Nikki Gamble, Rosen points out that the disappearance of two family members didn’t make sense to him as a ten-year-old, whose life was about school, bread, streets. How just as crucially, are the messages of history to be heeded in our world today to make a better tomorrow? This book contributes an outstanding part in answering these questions.
Firstly, it is personal. Michael Rosen’s warm, encouraging voice, helps children to appreciate the facts around the Holocaust and at the same time tells an enthralling story; he urges us to be interested in those who have come before and those who come after us.
Secondly, the book is full of hope. Straightforward, yet complex in its scope, and despite some horrifying and angry moments, The Missing ultimately lifts us in its overall energy and determination to give voice to every individual on this planet, to make us care about each other. In the final pages, Rosen admits that although he still does not have all the answers, the message is clear: he won’t give up searching for that truth, and neither should we.
The Missing would make an outstanding read-aloud in Year 5, 6 or 7 classrooms. The book being read this way would engage all readers to talk, to ask questions, to wonder alongside the author himself. And through talk, discussion, and careful consideration may we build a better present and future from even the darkest moments of our past.
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