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Memorializing Through Literature
Robert Cormier's letter to Ms. Rosenzweig's class
In this letter to Ms. Rosenzweig's class of eighth-grade students, Cormier addresses many points. First, he explains the title of the book, Tunes for Bears to Dance To. Then, he looks at various characters, including Mr. Levine and Mr. Hairston. He discusses the influence of the Holocaust and his role in memorializing it. Finally, he remarks on the students' desires to become writers. He advises them to write what they know best.
Robert Cormier's letter to Jason Campbell
This May 7, 2000, one-page letter by Robert Cormier to Jason Campbell at the American School in Dubai, appears to address questions about where he gets his ideas for writing. Referenced are Tunes for Bears to Dance To and Tenderness. For Tunes, Cormier says he worried about publicly displayed sculptures and at the same time, Holocaust deniers were in the news. The ideas merged in his head, driven by his own strong emotions. Regarding Tenderness, he talked about a now-changed law that released juvenile offenders at 18 despite the severity of their crimes. He reiterated that emotions "send me to the typewriter".
"Tunes for Bears to Dance To: Prayers and Silence"
Adrienne Kertzer, a student at the University of Calgary, writes on Tunes for Bears to Dance To. She focuses on Henry's closing prayer and positioning God as the only entity able to explain the Holocaust. She also posits that Mr. Levine's recreation of his village may be a way for him to replace God. She also contextualizes this novel as comparatively upbeat for Robert Cormier. To look at the religious framework of the Holocaust, Kertzer considers whose voices can pray aloud and how silence and testimony functions after the Holocaust. Like other Holocaust novels, Tunes For Bears to Dance To works with the idea that language fails to describe atrocity. Kertzer argues that only Henry could speak the closing prayer because he takes on the role of both Jew victim and Nazi follower. Because language cannot do justice to Mr. Levine's story of survival and loss, Henry serves as the proxy. She also considers Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem to compare Hairston with Arendt's conclusions about Eichmann as the banality of evil. Kertzer claims that Hairston is clearly evil rather than banal like Eichmann because a young readership would be confused by a morally ambiguous or void character. Ultimately, Kertzer criticizes the novel for using Henry to ask God for forgiveness when the only people in a position to forgive are the victims of the Nazi concentration camps.
Tunes for Bears to Dance To Chapter 7
This seven-page marked typescript of Chapter 7 of Tunes for Bears to Dance To includes pencilled line edits. George Graham at the community center suggests that Henry learn wood carving from Jacob Levine. Henry cuts himself during his lesson and Mr. Levine faints at the sight of blood. Jacob explains to Henry what happened to Mr. Levine and his village. Graham also describes the wooden village as medicine for Mr. Levine as they offer him a way to go home and see his family.
New York Times blog, The Learning Network, features an article on the Holocaust in fiction and teaching the Holocaust "Text to Text | ‘The Book Thief’ and ‘Auschwitz Shifts From Memorializing to Teaching’" including several teaching tips and tools.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum published audio recordings of "12 leading academics and literary critics whose work examines and analyzes literary treatments of the Holocaust" as a part of a 2001 symposium at the museum.