The Whole Megillah (TWM): The Brave Princess and Me might just be the first Holocaust book for kids that takes place in Greece. What prompted you to write this story?
Kathy Kacer (KK): The story was actually a “gift,” brought to me by my publisher. I didn’t know too much about Princess Alice, but when I began to research her, I knew it was a story I wanted to write. Not much has been written about the Jews of Greece, and certainly not much has been written about what Princess Alice did to save this family. I particularly loved the fact that her deafness and the feeling of having been excluded was something that prompted her to reach out to others. There is so much in her story that is worth sharing with a young audience.
TWM: Why did you choose to write it in the perspective of a Jewish child vs. a biography of Prince Alice of Greece?
KK: I never refer to myself as a historian or a biographer even though I am writing about real people in a read time. I think of myself as a storyteller. And I think that stories are the way for young people to make a meaningful connection to this history – one that is lasting, and prompts young people to want to read more. Most of my books are written from the perspective of the Jewish child who is hiding or escaping or simply trying to survive in nearly impossible conditions.
TWM: What were the challenges in writing this book?
KK: Because it’s a picture book geared to a younger audience, I think the greatest challenge is in trying the capture this story in so few words! Most of my other books are novels where I have had the luxury of unlimited prose. In this case, I wanted each character to be complete and evocative. It was hard to do that when I was limited in the number of words I could use.
TWM: What were the satisfactions?
KK: I think that despite the limited word count, I was able to create a story with these vivid real characters, and capture a snapshot of an extraordinary woman. I loved being able to do that. And I certainly loved being able to tell a story that took place in a part of the world that few have read about.
TWM: If I recall correctly, this is your second picture book. Do you have a preference for genre—fiction, nonfiction, picture books, middle grade?
KK: Yes, I’ve written in every genre. Each one is satisfying in its own way. So, I wouldn’t say I have a preference. I usually hear about a story of some kind and then I get a feeling about how to approach it—non-fiction, picture book, middle grade novel. I will say that I am blessed in that I can mix up my writing a bit and change genres when the story dictates that.
TWM: How did you conduct your research for this book?
KK: As usual, my research was pretty extensive. I read as much as I could about the Jews of Greece during the Second World War. I read as much as I could about Princess Alice. I found some remarkable photographs of her and the Cohen family (the family she hid). Combining all of those pieces of information, I began to construct this story.
TWM: Our recent The Whole Megillah survey about writing and publishing Holocaust books for kids identified a need and desire to write narratives that take place outside the usual Germany and Poland. What are your thoughts about that? What Holocaust stories are we missing thus far?
KK: I absolutely agree with this. Understanding the Holocaust is not something that should be confined to stories that took place in ghettos or concentration camps—mostly in Poland and Germany. To understand the breadth of this history, one has to go to other countries and understand the experience of Jews in those places. Certainly, there are other countries—Spain, Portugal, etc., where important stories about this history should be told. In addition, we need more stories that help us understand the plight of the disabled, homosexuals, the Roma, etc. Every story is a worthy one.