Wednesday, January 23, 2008

One Thousand Tracings by Lita Judge

One Thousand Tracings: Healing the Wounds of World War II written and illustrated by Lita Judge

A 2007 Cybils Nonfiction Picture Book Finalist

  • Reading level: Ages 4-8
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion (June 5, 2007)

I don’t think I have ever read a picture book, a NONFICTION picture book at that, that has moved me the way One Thousands Tracings moved me. Author/illustrator Lita Judge was inspired to write this picture book, her first, when she found a box of full of old letters containing foot tracings. She learned from her mother about the huge relief effort her grandparents, Fran and Frederick Hamerstrom, led to help families in need in post-WWII Europe.

One Thousand Tracings is the story of this effort told from the perspective of young girl (Lita Judge’s mother). The story begins in December 1946, “When I was three, Papa left home to join the war. When I was six, the war was over, and Papa came back to me and Mama. I thought everyone we loved was home and safe. But just before Christmas, a letter arrived that changed everything.”

That letter was from their friends in Germany who said they were starving and had no shoes. They put together a care package for the family, and weeks later received a thank you letter from the family along with a list of ten families who needed help. There were foot tracings for each family member in the letter. Over the next two years, the Hamerstrom’s received over a thousand foot tracings, and enlisting the help of friends and neighbors, over 3,000 care packages including shoes matching the foot tracings and other supplies were sent to families all over Europe.

In addition to telling us the story of the relief effort, Lita Judge draws us in by telling, through letters sent to the Hamerstrom’s, the story of one family with a little girl named Eliza who is the same age as the narrator. Her father is still missing, and she, her mother, and brother are in need. The reader is filled with anticipation to find out what happens to this family and the father.

The most poignant part of the story is the fact that Americans put their differences with Germany aside and helped PEOPLE. They were no longer fighting the enemy, but helping mothers, fathers, children who didn't even have shoes to keep their feet warm in the bitter cold. But perhaps the most engaging part of the book are pictures of the actual foot-tracings, yellowed letters, and photos sent with the letters scattered throughout the pages of the book and on the end papers. Mixed in with Judge’s soft watercolor illustrations, we can SEE what Lita Judge found in the attic. We see a picture of the real Eliza, a pair of warn boots that would be a godsend to a poverty-stricken family, a doll like the one Judge’s mother made for Eliza, and more.

One Thousand Tracings is beautifully written and tells the heartwarming story of human compassion. Sure to spark a lot of conversation, no child’s library should be without it.


  1. This sounds like an incredibly moving book. I was thrilled to see that my library had it, and I've put it on hold. Thanks for bringing this one to my attention- I have a feeling it would slipped right by me otherwise.

  2. Jenny,
    I'm so glad your library had this. It's definitely a great find. I'm going to blog more about this tomorrow, but you be interested in Lita Judge's One Thousand Tracings website.

  3. THis book sounds fascinating. I'm going to look for it at the library, too.