After the Train

After the Train

Book Category: Historical Fiction to Support Social Studies
Author: Gloria Whelan
Copyright: (2009) New York, NY
Publisher: Harper Collins
Suggested Grade Level: 5
Lexile Level: 830L
Accelerated Reader: 5.8
Suggested Delivery: Independent Read
Common Core State Standard: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.9: Compare and contrast stories in the same genre (e.g., mysteries and adventure stories) on their approaches to similar themes and topics.
Summary: In 1955 in West Germany around the time of WWII, Peter is taught many lessons that summer. While fishing in the river, he and his friends help a man safely reach the West German side and he overhears anti-Semitic comments. He has a recurring nightmare and after going through his parents’ things, he eventually learns that he is Jewish and was given to a stranger after birth. Throughout the book, Peter is constantly confused, so he attempts to announce and live with his newfound identity.
5 Key Words to Describe the Book: Realistic, Historical, Informational, Hopeful, Dramatic
Electronic Resources:
  1. This website provides a detailed summary of the book, where to buy the book, and various editorial reviews about the book:
  2. This website provides numerous primary sources about the Holocaust, events that happened after WWII, and how life was like for Jewish people during this time period:
  3. This website is a Holocaust Teacher Resource Center that provides teachers with information and additional links to Holocaust facts and lesson plans that relate to this particular topic:
Key Vocabulary:
  • Holocaust: the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators.
  • World War II: also known as the Second World War; a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945, although related conflicts began earlier; it was the most widespread war in history, and directly involved more than 100 million people from over 30 countries.
  • Jewish: relating to, associated with, or denoting Jews or Judaism.
  • Semitic: relating to the people who speak the Semitic languages, especially Hebrew and Arabic.
  • Identity Crisis: a period of uncertainty and confusion in which a person’s sense of identity becomes insecure, typically due to a change in their expected aims or role in society.
  • West Germany: the common English name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation on May 23, 1949 to German reunification on October 3, 1990.
Teaching Suggestions:
  1. Before, During, After-
  • Before: In small groups, students will read a variety of primary sources that were written by Holocaust and WWII survivors. They will make note of important and critical components of these primary sources, such as the dates, the people in the sources, and the sequence of events. Students should compare their primary sources with their classmates after reading them.
  • During: Students will fill out a graphic organizer that will help them comprehend the story as they are reading. The graphic organizer will contain boxes that the students will fill in to describe the sequence of events that happened in the story. Here is an example of the graphic organizer:

  • After: Students can take a field trip to a Holocaust/WWII museum to learn more about the events that occurred and the people who lived during this time period. This can be a fun and educational way to learn new things about this topic outside of the classroom.
  1. Writing Activity- Students will write a set of compelling questions (about 10) that they wish they could have asked the people who were alive during the Holocaust. These questions should be appropriate and should reflect events that happened in the story. An example of a question could be: “How did you feel during the Holocaust?”
Teacher’s Guide:

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