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Literature Titles and Resources for Teaching and Learning:

 The Holocaust and WWII


Anthology:                 Shawn, Karen and Goldfred, Keren, editors. The Call of Memory:
                                   Learning About the Holocaust through Narrative. Ben Yehuda


Boyne, John                The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Benioff, David              City of Thieves

Cormier, Robert          Tunes for Bears to Dance To

Napoli, Donna Jo        Stones in Water

Roy, Jennifer               Yellow Star

Spinelli, Jerry              Milkweed

Yolen, Jane                The Devil’s Arithmetic

Zusack, Markus          The Book Thief

Hartling, Peter            Crutches

Cormier, Robert          Other Bells for Us to Ring

Reiss, Johanna           The Upstairs Room

Vos, Ida                     Hide and Seek

Giff, Patricia               Lily’s Crossing

Coerr, Eleanor           Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes

Lowry, Lois                Number the Stars

Green, Bette              Summer of My German Soldier

Doerr, Anthony          All the Light We Cannot See

Shemin, Margaretha   The Little Riders



Frank, Anne                A Diary of a Young Girl

Borden, Louise           The Little Ships: The Heroic Rescue at Dunkirk in WWII

Levine, Karen             Hana’s Suitcase

Lobel, Anita                No Pretty Pictures a Child of War

Spiegelman, Art          Maus

Weisel, Elie                 Night

Auerbacher, Inge &
Bozenna Gilbride        Children of Terror

Opdyke, Irene             In My Hands:  Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer

Volavkova, Hana        …I Never Saw Another Butterfly (Children’s Drawings and Poems
                                    from the Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944)

Schroeder, Peter         Six Million Paper Clips

Winter, Miriam            Trains

Bartolleti, Susan         Hitler Youth:  Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow

Keeley, Jennifer          Life in the Hitler Youth

Millman, Isaac             Hidden Child

Thomson, Ruth           Terezin: Voices from the Holocaust

Vander Zee, Ruth       Eli Remembers

Bartolleti, Susan         Hitler Youth

Rappaport, Doreen     Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance during
                                   the Holocaust

Adler, David                We Remember the Holocaust

Sandler, Martin           The Betrayal of Japanese Americans during WWII

Borden, Louise           The Journey that Saved Curious George: the True Wartime Escape of Margaret and H.A. Rey


Picture Books

Bunting, Eve               Terrible Things

Vander Zee, Ruth        Erika’s Story

Innocenti, Roberto      Rose Blanche

Hesse, Karen              Cats in Krasinski Square

Polacco, Patricia          The Butterfly

Paterson, Katherine    Blueberries for the Queen

Borden, Louise           The Greatest Skating Race: A World War II Story from the Netherlands

Elvgren, Jennifer         The Whispering Town



Paper Clips

The Reckoning: Remembering the Dutch Resistance

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The Devil’s Arithmetic

Sarah’s Key


Schindler’s List

The Book Thief

Courtesy of Cheryl Johnston, Assistant Professor of Reading and English, Monroe County Community College.  April 2015

Research Topics for All the Light We Cannot See

  • Research the history and impact of the “radio” during the time period of the novel, and compare it to modern communication technology like the Internet.
  • How did radio contribute the Germany’s ability to spread political, economic, and social propaganda?

  • Research WWII concentration camps in Europe.
  • Research the Nazi occupation of France in WWII, when it began, the major events, how the French people reacted.
  • Research the French Underground movement after Germany occupied France. Madam Ruelle and her loaves of bread are part of the resistance in the novel.
  • Research current museums and education centers that maintain archived elements of the Holocaust and/or WWII in Europe. Look at the impact these institutions have, if any, and whether we should maintain historical records of this historical period or try to forget it.
  • Research Hitler’s Youth Movement (Youth League) and the Nazi education of children in the 1930s and 40s.
  • Research the Third Reich, its influence in Europe, how it controlled citizens of Germany, disseminated lies and fear as a political force.
  • What is the difference between good and evil in the moral sense, but also in words, actions, and deeds? How does good and evil play a role in the backdrop of the novel historically, socially, etc.?
  • How did Germany use the technology of the time and technology they invented to support their cause in WWII? Identify several of Germany’s inventions and how they played a role in the rise and fall of Nazi Germany.
  • Research what it was like living through WWII in Europe in general, in Nazi Germany, or in other European countries. Focus on family life, survival strategies, war camps, refugee camps, etc.
  • Research the Historical Novel as a topic. How does All the Light We Cannot See fit the genre, how does it differ, and why is the Historical Novel important as an alternative to historical record.
  • Research the Museum of Natural History in Paris.
  • Research the city of Saint-Malo and the role it played in WWII. In 1944 the city almost burned to the ground. What happened, why, etc.? What role did the Allied forces play in its destruction?
  • Science and magical/superstition play a role in the novel. Research the relationship of science and magical thinking in the time period of the novel. You could research the role of belief systems, mythology, etc. juxtaposed with hard science that was used to wage war and destruction.
  • Research the destruction of major urban areas in Europe during WWII. Explore through your research why certain cities were destroyed while others were saved, and what was the effect on the population during the destruction and after (Post WWII). Some suggestions are the German Blitz of British cities and the firebombing of Hamburg and Dresden by the USA and Allied forces. There are others you can research as well. Both sides destroyed cities for reasons that are difficult to justify.
  • Research Holocaust Survivors and explore how many were saved at the end of the war in contrast to the number deceased. Look at which locations were responsible for the most deaths, as well as exploring how prisoners were treated in these camps. Some of the more well-known camps you may want to research are Auschwitz, Dachau, Treblinka, Belzec, and Buchenwald.
  • Research the Nazi Party and its propaganda machine. How did the party rise to power, how was the party able to convince the German people to invade other countries, and what were the Nazi strategies for winning the war and creating an Arian Nation.
  • Research the Nuremberg Trials to follow up on what happened to those German officers and soldiers who were involved in the Concentration Camps.
  • Research the Jewish resistance movement during the Holocaust. In what geographical locations (countries or cities) was the resistance most effective and least effective? What strategies were employed by the Jewish resistance to fight back against the Nazis?
  • Research the Nazi assault on children during the Holocaust. How were children used by the Germans, how many died, how many were saved, and what role did children play in the Nazi scheme or grand plan?

Courtesy of Tim Dillon, Professor of English, Monroe County Community College.  April 2015

Searching for Memories:  Insight from Holocaust Literature

The semester project for students enrolled in Children’s Literature, English 256 will involve a study of memoirs and other literary genres that give witness to the lives of children and teens who survived the trauma of the Nazi occupation in Europe during World War II. 

Teaching history to young readers is always a challenge and revealing the realities of war is particularly difficult. Dates, places, statistics, and generalized description common to textbooks do not adequately convey the brutality of war and the human suffering associated with wartime. Literature on the other hand allows an opportunity to recreate the survivor world and to personalize the statistics through the stories of individuals who endured terrible suffering. Since the end of World War II, people have struggled to understand the “Holocaust”, the worst example of genocide in human history. How did it happen?  How can we make sure it will never happen again?

 Sadly, genocide continues.  It did not end with Hitler and his Nazi Party. Today’s children are exposed to newscasts and reports of genocide in Rwanda and Darfur. It is uncomfortable to talk about these barbaric acts and the deaths of millions of human beings, but as educators we have a responsibility to inform our students and to learn from history.  Through literature, we have an opportunity to bring out the truth of the past and to gain understanding.  Human rights must be afforded to all people, and as fellow human beings we need to acknowledge human suffering and do what we can to alleviate it.  “Through remembrances, through words, through literature, through study—and our teacher actions—our students can possibly better gauge, and perhaps in time prevent, the coming of the next war within.” (Younglove, Bill. “The War Within”.  California English. June 2008. Page 23).

Objectives of this Project:

  • Define and recognize genocide.

  • Expand our knowledge of “holocaust” literature that would be appropriate for adolescent readers.
  • Compile a list of literary resources that will illuminate, but not traumatize young readers.
  • Challenge students to understand the political climate of World War II.
  •  Become personally acquainted with the stories of holocaust survivors.
  • Respond critically to Holocaust memoir/ fiction.
  • Interact with peer readers in Literature Circles.


Part I:  The Reckoning: Remembering the Dutch Resistance (10 points)

  1. View The Reckoning: Remembering the Dutch Resistance. “An international award-winning documentary, this film captures the stories and eyewitness accounts of survivors in war-torn Netherlands during World War II.” Through eyewitness testimony and historic film clips, the producers reveal the intensely human aspect of the Dutch struggle against Nazi tyranny.

  2. Write a one page reaction.

Part II:  United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website -  (10 points)

  1. Access “Information for Students”. Locate one of the Introductions to the Holocaust articles listed.  Print and highlight.

  2. Using the website, locate a timeline of World War II or a timeline of the Holocaust. Highlight the events and years that parallel the settings and events detailed in Anita Lobel’s memoir.

Part III:  No Pretty Pictures (50 points)

  1. Locate biographical information on Anita Lobel’s professional career as an illustrator.  Print and highlight important details.

  2. Locate a list of Anita Lobel’s books, and using Children’s Literature Review or Books in Print (data base). Find and print a review of one of the titles.

  3. Locate a review of No Pretty Pictures. Read and highlight important details.

  4. Read and discuss No Pretty Pictures by Anita Lobel.

    (Literature Circles) Assignment sheet will be provided.

Part IV:  The Call to Memory (20 points)

Read the assigned stories from The Call to Memory. Respond to the assigned questions. Participate in class discussion.

Part V:  Paper Clips (10 points)

Write a one page reaction.

Part I:  The Reckoning: Remembering the Dutch Resistance

  • View The Reckoning: Remembering the Dutch Resistance. “An international award-winning documentary, this film captures the stories and eyewitness accounts of survivors in war-torn Netherlands during World War II.” Through eyewitness testimony and historic film clips, the producers reveal the intensely human aspect of the Dutch struggle against Nazi tyranny.
  • Write a one page reaction.

Part II:  United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website -  (10 points)

  • Access “Information for Students”. Locate one of the Introductions to the Holocaust articles listed.  Print and highlight.
  • Using the website, locate a timeline of World War II or a timeline of the Holocaust. Highlight the events and years that parallel the settings and events detailed in Anita Lobel’s memoir.

Part III:  No Pretty Pictures (50 points)

  • Locate biographical information on Anita Lobel’s professional career as an illustrator.  Print and highlight important details.
  • Locate a list of Anita Lobel’s books, and using Children’s Literature Review or Books in Print (data base). Find and print a review of one of the titles.
  • Locate a review of No Pretty Pictures. Read and highlight important details.
  • Read and discuss No Pretty Pictures by Anita Lobel.

    (Literature Circles) Assignment sheet will be provided.

Part IV:  The Call to Memory (20 points)

Read the assigned stories from The Call to Memory. Respond to the assigned questions. Participate in class discussion.

Part V:  Paper Clips (10 points)

Write a one page reaction.

Extra Credit:

Write a film review of one of the following films related to The Holocaust/ World War II:

The Devil’s Arithmetic

Schindler’s List
Life is Beautiful
Boy in the Striped Pajamas
The Pianist
Sarah’s Key   
The Book Thief 

Courtesy of Cheryl Johnston, Assistant Professor of Reading and English, Monroe County Community College.  April 2015

Major Characters

Marie-Laure LeBlanc, 16-year old blind French girl.

Marie-Laure’s father, principal locksmith for the National Museum of Natural History and a widower.

Uncle Etienne, Marie-Laure’s great uncle who is a WWI veteran and likely suffering PTSD, has visions and is mentally unable to leave his home in Saint Malo.

Madame Manec, old housekeeper and caretaker for Etienne.

Werner Pfennig, 18-year old German private, an orphan and self-taught radio engineer.

Frederick, very skinny bunkmate of Werner’s who is a birder.

Frank Volkheimer, large staff sergeant.

Sergeant Major Reinhold von Rumpel, 41-years old, gemologist who archives confiscated treasures and is pursing the Sea of Flames.

Jutta, Werner’s little sister, also an orphan.

Frau Elena, Protestant nun who cares for Jutta, Werner and other orphans.

See  April 28, 2015

Symbols, Motifs, and Themes


The Radio

The radio plays a big part in both Werner’s and Marie-Laure’s lives, as this is the way the meet each other, symbolizing the connection of people all over the world. Also, illegal radios show the resistance to oppression. Though the Germans have outlawed radios, many people keep them to communicate with their allies in hopes of defeating the Nazis. Though the French people are occupied by the Germans, their illegal radios show that they will not give up and will do everything in their power to get back their freedom.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

As Marie-Laure reads this book through good and bad times, it represents people’s efforts to maintain normality, even in a time of war.  She starts reading it when she is living a normal life with her father, before the war has even started. She continues reading it when her father is put in a German prison camp and she is left with her uncle, and later, when her uncle is taken away and she is left alone in the house to fend for herself. At the very hardest time, she reads the book into her uncle’s radio to offer comfort for all those experiencing the hardships of war like her. Throughout the war, the book remains a constant, offering comfort to Marie-Laure and keeping her mind off the atrocities happening all around her.

Red Head Girl with the Velvet Cloak

Killed in error by a German soldier, the girl with the velvet cloak symbolizes the victims of the Germans during the war. She is introduced to the reader playing on a swing set with her mother watching nearby, an action that characterizes her as young and harmless, making her death seem even more inhumane to the reader.  She haunts Werner after her murder, drawing out his guilt, and later transforms into the Jewess from Frederick’s building. Both these women, the seven year old and the Jewess, were victims of the cruelty of the Germans during this time period.  

The Sea of Flames

This diamond, which, according to legend, gives the person who possesses it eternal life, but causes harm to the people around the possessor, represents hope. Though Von Rumpel is diagnosed with cancer, and given only a few months to live, he never doubts that this stone will cure him. He continues hunting for the stone even when his cancer has progressed so far he can barely walk. He never loses hope in the stone, even as he is so close to death, he still thinks there is a possibility of him finding the stone and living forever.  

Blindness/The Inability to See

Both Werner and Marie-Laure are blind, Werner figuratively and Marie-Laure literally. Though Marie-Laure cannot see objects through her eyes, she is extremely observant. Before the war even starts, she knows something is changing, and can tell through her other senses that a war is starting. Werner, on the other hand, can see through his eyes, but does not pick up on things changing around him. Werner can see the Hitler Youth and the change in regulations of children working, but does not realize that Germany is powering up to start a war.


There is an emphasis on eyes all through this novel through the narration by Werner, who uses a person’s eyes to give the reader a better picture of the character. Werner originally describes the red head girl with the velvet cloak as having “big clear eyes” (Doerr 423).  However, when she is killed, he changes her description to “Two wet eyes and that third eye of the bullet hole never blinking” (Doer 456). This use of eyes emphasizes at first the innocence of the girl using the words “big” and clear” and later her fear with the words “wet” and “never blinking.”  

The Wardrobe

The Wardrobe in Etienne’s room represents the doorway from the LeBlanc’s public life to their private life.  Outside of the wardrobe, is an average house, with nothing suspicious or out of the ordinary, however behind this piece of furniture hides the secret: an illegal radio. This wardrobe emphasizes how people stay strong and resist in times of oppression and how even the most unlikely people can make a big difference during hard times.

The Tiny Model City

The small model city of Saint-Malo, which Monsieur LeBlanc built for his daughter, represents the effects of the war.  At the beginning of the novel, it is said that the model is accurate as far as the proportions and placing of the buildings, however, unlike the model, the streets of the real city are bustling with people.  However, as the war progresses, the streets of the real city mimic the streets of the model: growing more desolate as the citizens attempt to escape wrath of the Germans by keeping to themselves in their houses.

The Sea

Throughout the novel, the sea represents a calming, safe place where the characters can escape the harsh realities of war and absorb the wonders of nature.  Both Werner and Marie-Laure yearn to visit the Oceanside.  The first thing Werner does when he arrives in Saint-Malo is leaves his brigade of soldiers to run to the sea.  Though the beach is scattered with mines, Werner enjoys the ocean with no harm, showing that the sea is a safe place.  When Marie-Laure arrives in Saint-Malo, she begs to go to the sea, and finally gets her wish. Though it is dangerous, as the Germans occupy the town, Marie-Laure enjoys the ocean with no misfortunes occurring.


The appearance of numbers occurs throughout this novel, used by both Marie-Laure and Werner.  Marie-Laure is constantly counting things, three steps, four doors, five drains, using numbers as a way of finding her way though she cannot see.  In contrast, Werner’s numbers emphasize his talents in math, and later his career in the military.  In both the military and mathematics, precision and accuracy is important, and therefore calculations with exact numbers are necessary for success.



Order of Events

Because the novel jumps through time and perspectives so much, a timeline/chronological order can help greatly with understanding exactly what happens.  The order in which they are written into the book is vastly different.

  1. Marie-Laure goes blind at six years old.

  2. Werner acquires his first radio and listens to it.

  3. Marie-Laure’s father makes her a model of Paris, she begins to learn it.

  4. Werner learns how to tinker with radios and fix them as a young boy.

  5. Marie-Laure is able to successfully use the scale model of her neighborhood to walk around.

  6. Hitler begins to exert his influence—two boys from Werner’s orphanage join the Hitler Youth.

  7. Werner gets better with radios, increasing their reception range, and listens to French broadcasts intended to teach children about science.

  8. Marie-Laure hears rumors about the Sea of Flames being displayed in the museum where her father works, and worries about its supposed curse.

  9. The Germans invade France, Marie-Laure and her father flees to Saint-Malo with the Sea of Flames.

  10. Werner begins school and Jutta is unhappy about it.

  11. von Rumpel is introduced, and he is searching for treasures—particularly the Sea of Flames.

  12. Claude Levitte reports Daniel LeBlanc to the police for suspicious activity because he is taking measurements for his scale model of Saint-Malo.

  13. The exercise of singling out a weakest member of the class at Werner’s school starts up.

  14. Etienne must turn in all his radios because of the German occupation—he keeps the transmitter in the attic illegally.

  15. von Rumpel is on the case, finds the museum, and starts to get a clue of where to search.

  16. Daniel LeBlanc returns to Paris and is arrested, and is only ever heard from again in letters of questionable veracity.

  17. Frederick is the first student at the school who loses the “weakest” game and is beaten brutally because of it.

  18. Werner goes home with Frederick for winter break and learns a lot about him.

  19. The students torture and kill the prisoner taken to Werner’s school, but Frederick refuses to take part.

  20. Madame Manec starts up her small part of the French resistance with other women.

  21. Frederick gets singled out, teased, made fun of, and beaten, and leaves the school with major brain damage.

  22. Marie-Laure learns of the seaside grotto with the snails and is given a key to it by Harold Bazin.

  23. Werner is forced to join the military, where he meets up with Volkheimer again.

  24. Madame Manec dies of illness and Etienne continues on her work in the resistance and begins broadcasting with his radio.

  25. von Rumple has tracked down all three copies of the Sea of Flames, and is on his way to Saint-Malo to retrieve the real one even though he is very ill.

  26. A French attack on a German truck near Saint-Malo gains the attention of the German military, and Werner is stationed in Saint-Malo because of it.

  27. The French citizens hear that the allies are on the way.

  28. Werner is able to triangulate the resistance radio broadcasts to the LeBlanc house, but chooses not to say anything because he recognizes the voice as the science broadcasts from his youth.

  29. Werner spots and follows Marie-Laure around.

  30. von Rumpel arrives in Saint-Malo, tracks down Marie-Laure, and questions her.

  31. Etienne finally leaves the house because he is worried about Marie-Laure being out for so long.

  32. Etienne is arrested by von Rumpel and sent to Fort National, where he survives an American shell blast.

  33. The Americans begin to bomb Saint-Malo.

  34. Werner is trapped in the basement of the Hotel of Bees with Volkheimer, Bernd dies.

  35. Marie-Laure is trapped in the house, and hides first in the cellar but moves to the attic when von Rumple enters.

  36. von Rumple finds Marie-Laure’s hiding spot.

  37. Werner enters the LeBlanc house and saves Marie-Laure by shooting von Rumple.

  38. Marie-Laure shows Werner the grotto, and the put the Sea of Flames in the ocean.

  39. Etienne is freed, finds Marie-Laure, and they go to Paris.

  40. Werner is captured by the French, becomes very ill, walks onto a German landmine, and dies.


Discussion Topics


The theme of light permeates the novel far beyond the title.

When a lance corporal comes to the orphanage, “his handgun is black; it seems to draw all the light in the room toward it.”

When Werner is trapped in the cellar following the bombing, he learns, “even total darkness is not quite darkness.”  

Marie-Laure notes that “out on the beaches, her privation and fear are rinsed away by wind and color and light.” 

The voice of Marie-Laure’s grandfather, from the recordings says, “So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?” 

Before Etienne carves a trapdoor out of the back of the wardrobe, all the lights are off both physically and metaphorically.

Finally, when Marie-Laure and Jutta meet as older women, Marie-Laure offers Jutta the one remaining recording of her grandfather, the one about the moon and light.

What does light represent in the novel?  How do you interpret the title of the novel?   What does light mean to you? How does physical light affect your daily rhythms and emotions?  What represents light in your life?


Books are Marie-Laure’s friends as she sits beside her father working and travels with explorers to worlds far beyond her own. They form a strong connection for her to the world around her.

“Marie-Laure reads Jules Verne in the key pound, on the toilet, in the corridors, she reads on the benches of the Grand Gallery and out along the hundred gravel paths of the gardens.  She reads the first half of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea so many times, she practically memorized it.”

For Werner and Jutta the radio is the epicenter of their connection to the outside world as well as Werner’s personal connection to his place in the army.

When Werner first gets the radio working in the orphanage: “the little radio with its four terminals and trailing aerial sits motionless on the floor between them all like a miracle.” 

In case, the mobility of the characters is limited, and each explores a larger world through these physical conduits. What else serves as a link between characters and the world? When are these connections a benefit and when do they become a hindrance? What has helped you or someone you know connect with the broader world when their mobility was limited?


“Is it right,’ Jutta says, ‘to do something only because everyone else is doing it?” 

"Doing nothing is as good as collaborating,” Madame Manec states in chapter 84. 

Who among both the French and the Germans acts as the catalyst in going against the flow? How do each of these characters speak or act out, how is their divergence received and how are their lives impacted for better or worse by being a catalyst for change?

The expression of doing something rather than being a bystander has been emphasized as a moral imperative throughout history.

As Elie Wiesel, holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize recipient said,

“The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.”  

In 1999 he delivered a speech in Washington, D.C., titled, The Perils of Indifference.

In a modern setting Citylab columnist Laura Bliss shares some options for getting involved as a bystander to an assault on a subway.  

Whether standing up against violence against a group anywhere in the world, or standing up for a stranger you see on the street when and where are you comfortable getting involved? When have you stepped in and when have you remained a bystander?


Marie Laure goes to the beach when she needs renewal.

“Her greatest pleasure is to walk to the north end of the beach at low tide and squat below an island that Madame Manec calls LeGrand Bé and let her fingers whisk around in the tide pools…She simply listens, hears, and breathes,” chapter 74. 

In Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Marie reads as Captain Nemo says, “The sea does not belong to tyrants.”

Where do other characters find their place of respite? What other forms do respite take— do characters find renewal in relationships?  In such a dark, hopeless time a spark of hope is retained by the citizens of Saint Malo, especially those joining the resistance. Where did you see hope and renewal in the novel?


“Nearly every species that has ever lived has gone extinct, Laurette.  No reason to think we humans will be any different!”

“Don’t you want to be alive before you die?” Madame Manec in chapter 84. 

How does Madame Manec embrace the feeling of being alive?  Who resists her change?  In time, Etienne joins in the resistance as he reads off the messages on the radio in the evening.  How is each representative of being more alive?

In a profile in the Atlantic, Jean Vanier talks about “a heart that is not filled with fear,” as an important aspect of being fully human.  Does this resonate with you? What does it mean to you to be fully alive?

In his Op Ed in the New York Times Oliver Sacks writes, “I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at NewsHour every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.” How is this line of thinking similar to Madame Manec and how is it in opposition to her action in the face of death? Which is closer to your perspective when you come to grips with the finite aspect of life?


Multiple Choice Questions

  1. Werner repeatedly emphasizes which physical trait as he describes Marie-Laure and the red head girl with the velvet cape?

    1. a. Mouth
      b. Eyes
      c. Height
      d. Hair

  2. The following quote employs which literary device? “Werner has crossed the edge of the field, where he steps on a trigger land mine set there by his own army three months before” (Doerr 535).
              a. Imagery
              b. Mood
              c. Irony
              d. Juxtaposition

  3. Which of the following is a Motif throughout the novel?

              a. The Eiffel Tower
              b. Cans of Food
              c. Telegrams
              d. Music

  4. What do the radios symbolize in the novel?

              a. The connection of people in different countries, such as Werner and Marie-Laure
              b. An escape for Werner to get out of the mines
              c. The resistance of prisoners during WWII
              d. The technology changes from WWI to WWII

  5. What is the significance of the video game Marie-Laure’s grandson plays at the end of the book?
              a. It shows how technology has changed since the war
              b. It shows how past times have changed
              c. It shows how Marie-Laure has aged
              d. It contrasts life in a video game and life in the real world

  6. Which best describes the last paragraph of the novel?

              a. Technology has greatly advanced since the war
              b. Europe has already moved on from the war
              c. Contrasting the current bustling city with the desolate city during the war
              d. Everyone is busier than they were during the war

  7. “Another hour, another day, another year” conveys which tone? (Doerr 577).

              a. Exasperated
              b. Annoyed
              c. Somber
              d. Melancholy


All the Light We Cannot See in the Context of History

Nearly all of the book takes place prior to and during World War II. The start of the story, when Marie-Laure and Werner are very young children, occurs prior to Hitler exerting any influence over Germany, roughly around 1932.

As they grow up in the story and learn who they are, Nazi Germany begins to emerge as a threat. The Sea of Flames is introduced to the story as more than just a legend around the same time that Germany invaded Poland and began World War II in Europe in 1939.

Marie-Laure and her father evacuate Paris because of the news of the Battle of France, where France fell under German occupation, in 1940.

Over the next four years, Marie-Laure and her family live under occupation—and participate in the French resistance.

Germany then breaks its pact with the Soviet Union in mid-1941, and appeared to be on a crash course to victory.

The United States got involved in World War II later in 1941 when the Japanese launched the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, and sent troops to Europe to fight the Germans on the western front.

Through the end of 1941 and the beginning of 1942, the tides turned Germany began to lose the war because of the stronger western front and the massive number of casualties suffered from the invasion of the Soviet Union in the winter. Werner gets pulled from school and sent into the military around this time because of the German need for more troops.

The war raged on for the next two years without many mentionable occurrences up until D-Day. D-Day and American bombers pushing the eastern front into Germany lead to the bombing and destruction of Saint-Malo, when the climax of the story takes place. Due to the American bombers, Werner gets trapped in the basement of the Hotel of Bees, and Marie-Laure is forced into hiding from the bombs and then Reinhold von Rumpel.

As the plot of the story concludes, Germany and Italy surrender and end the war in Europe.


Additional Discussions

Take another look at Werner's redacted letter to Jutta on page 283. There’s so much blacked out that it’s hard to take any meaning from his message. What do you imagine he might have been writing about? Try to fill in the blanks with your best guess.

Have you ever read any Jules Verne? Pick up a copy of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (or view the 1954 film adaptation) and talk about why you think Anthony Doerr decided to make Verne’s fiction such a big part of his own.

Overall, you like the book? Why or why not?

Along with that, did you like Doerr’s style of writing? 

Along with style, how did you feel about the time going back and forth between future and present? 
Favorite character? Why?

In this conversation between Madame Manec and Etienne when she’s trying to get him involved: 

“Then help us.”
“I don’t want to make trouble, Madame.”
“Isn’t doing nothing a kind of troublemaking?”
“Doing nothing is doing nothing.”
“Doing nothing is as good as collaborating.”

What do you think? Do you agree with Madame? Is doing nothing a kind of troublemaking…as good as collaborating? 

What did you think of the main character being blind? How did this change the story for you? 

Is it easy or difficult for you to believe in curses and things of that nature? The supernatural, if you will? More specifically, did you believe that if Werner had had the stone at the end, he might’ve been saved? 

What did the title mean to you? 

Internet Resources

Reading Group Guide pdf for All the Light We Cannot See courtesy of

40 Vocabulary words and definitions for All the Light We Cannot See.  With free registration additional vocabulary resources (practice, spelling bee and assignments) are available. 

Online 10 question quiz for All the Light We Cannot See courtesy of

Accurate timeline of all major events in World War II.

Top Destinations from All the Light We Cannot See.  Courtesy of Busch, Alison. “’All the Light We Cannot See’: Top Destinations From the Novel.”  Auto Europe Travel Blog.

Learn more about the Battle of Normandy; find maps, timelines, photographs, and recommendations for films and books on the subject.

Radio was such an important part of Werner’s and Marie-Laure’s stories, and WWII in general. Visit the BBC archive collections to listen to clips of Nazi propaganda, news reports, and personal accounts of World War II.

Quick, convenient and reliable links to World War II Resources courtesy of Best of History WebSite.

Look at a photo of Saint Malo to help place you in the village and understand why the Germans were able to hold it for so long.

Read a blog post of a traveler to Saint Malo and her interview with a woman who was 18 during the occupation who shares her memories.

Read some quotes from All the Light We Cannot See courtesy of Goodreads.

Take a free online All the Light We Cannot See quiz, with 25 multiple choice questions that help you test your knowledge.

Read Gregory Coles CliffsNotes on All the Light We Cannot See. 31 Jan 2016.