Michael Rosen’s book The Missing is written for children aged about 10 to 12 but please don’t let that put you off as it is perfectly accessible and rewarding for an adult to read. It is a mini investigation of what happened to members of his wider family who lived in Europe during WW2 and about whom the remaining family has very little information.
The book explains what happened to the Jews in Germany and the occupied territories and the experience of his closest relatives who fled. He talks about what they know about his aunts and uncles and then shows the ways that they went about getting more information about the missing members of his family. The book then shares what is known about the fates of his relatives.
In between the personal part of the story the author talks about the general experience of people of the time and gives some examples of the sort of things that happened. He shares family pictures and memories. All the way through he talks directly to the reader and how important it is to him that people know this story. He also appeals for tolerance for refugees and all those driven from their homes. It is only a slight book so it is obvious that each word and all the information chosen has been thought about – it is a carefully crafted book.
At places during this story the author also includes poems about what he feels or how he thinks that others might feel. They are surprisingly touching and make the book very personal. The whole book feels like a conversation which the author is having with you about what happened to his family and what this all means to him.
I have read many books about the Holocaust and the experience of European Jews but this is among the best. It is not because of anything new that it reveals but because of the way in which this tragedy is revealed to the reader. I found it very moving. I suspect that had I encountered it as a child it would have been a very important book in my reading life.