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Trusting Calvin: How a Dog Helped Heal a Holocaust Survivor's Heart

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  431 ratings  ·  68 reviews
Max Edelman was just 17 when the Nazis took him to the first of five work camps, where his only hope of survival was to keep quiet and raise an emotional shield. After witnessing a German Shepherd kill a fellow prisoner, he developed a lifelong fear of dogs. Beaten into blindness by two bored guards, Max survived, buried the past, and moved on. But when he retired, he need ...more
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published December 4th 2012 by Lyons Press (first published January 1st 2012)
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Van Reese The short answer would be that, Yes, a girl who loves dogs, and is interested in the holocaust would like this book. As Tara said, however, this is no…moreThe short answer would be that, Yes, a girl who loves dogs, and is interested in the holocaust would like this book. As Tara said, however, this is not appropriate for younger children. This book does cover war and the holocaust, so there is violence. Probably the rape is the most disturbing, but none of the scenes are depicted in graphic detail.

I felt that the author did a good job of describing the struggles Max (or Moshe) experienced and the value of seeing-eye dogs without being overly sentimental. She presents the facts, showing the difficulties and the joys.(less)
Van Reese I think a little bit older would be better, but it depends on the girl. She would definitely like the part about Calvin and the other dogs. The part a…moreI think a little bit older would be better, but it depends on the girl. She would definitely like the part about Calvin and the other dogs. The part about the holocaust might be hard, but is necessary to really understand the later part with the dogs.(less)
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Jan 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Trusting Calvin is a remarkable account about a remarkable life. One begins reading this book with the expectation of it simply being what the subtitle says it is -- a nice story about a nice dog helping a traumatized man heal from his Holocaust experiences.

It is that, but it is so much more. To understand the extent of Max Edelman's healing we have first to experience the Holocaust with him, and that's not easy. Some might turn away and miss out on a journey worth taking. My advice is to keep r
Katherine George
Feb 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Max Edelman, the subject of Trusting Calvin, died on Nov. 5, 2013. By eliciting the story Max’s traumatic life in the Holocaust camps (the cause of his blindness) one trying conversation at a time, Sharon Peters builds the (true) story of Max, his career (physical therapy) in Cleveland as an immigrant, his family life, and his retirement. Max acquired Calvin through Guiding Eyes for the Blind in his retirement at age 68. It was an emotional and most frustrating transition for a man still traumat ...more
chris tierney
Nov 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
It's not obvious from the synopsis, but a large part of the book is actually about Max's experiences in the Holocaust, and his life after. Calvin the dog doesn't show up (other than briefly in the first chapter) until over 100 pages in.

This isn't a bad thing---Max's story is powerful and important to tell, especially because it does not shy away from showing how he continued to be hurt by his traumatic experience long after the war ended. But anyone picking up this book and expecting it to be pr
Mar 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book, although it was not what I expected at all based on the description. There was only a brief introduction to Calvin at the outset, and then he did not reappear until page 110 (out of a 181 page book, that doesn't leave a lot for him). The first part of the book was about Max's experience in a concentration camp, which was moving and interesting. I liked it, even though it wasn't the book I had expected to read. When we finally got to Calvin, there was nothing indepth about hi ...more
May 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What an absolutely remarkable man and story.
Sep 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I wouldn't call it a book I could not put down, but it's a five star story. ...more
Jamie Orebaugh
Jan 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book is a must read. It is beautifully written and the author really captures so much in a book that probably could have kept going. Even if you aren’t a dog lover, this book really opens your eyes and your heart to the life of a service dog and what they do for the people they help every minute of every day. The last couple pages of this book contain some of the most powerful words from the subject of the book. I just couldn’t put it down.

I have read a few books about people who have survived the Holocaust, including one about sisters who helped each other get through things we should never even have to think about. This book took it to a different place, although I can't explain it in detail, and I don't think Max (Moshe) Edelman could either. Then again maybe he did…

The Edelman family lived in Poland, worked hard and led a good although simple life in spite of the anti-Semitism that seems to follow Jewish people wherever t
Dec 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It is very hard to read at first: It is hard to imagine surviving the concentration camps. They were brutal and this book told it all. Imagine being put into one of these camps at 17 and finally being freed at 22. Horrible things went on.

The good news is, he DID survive. He was, however, haunted with nightmares all his life from his experiences.

The service dogs are an amazing change in his life: one that gives him independence. A very heart warming story!
Jun 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
I liked this book yet it made me sad - there was so much horror during the Holocaust and I have a hard time with the way people were treated. I am amazed that this man and his brothers survived and lived lives without hate. We all can learn a lot from this and treat others with respect and dignity even if we don't agree with them. I know the above wasn't about the book but that was what I came away with, which is a good reason to read the book.
Oct 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book paired my keen interest in the holocaust and dogs. Max Edelman was a courageous man who survived a concentration camp and overcame his intense fear of dogs, which was ignited by a Nazi's German Shepherd tearing apart a man standing next to him in the camp. Max's guide dogs gradually helped him deal with the trauma of internment and share his war time experiences with countless people. Peters did a good job of telling Max's story. ...more
Tara Goushas
Please read; it is so interesting. The true story of Max Edelman's life experiences leading up to, during, and displacement after surviving the Holocaust. Dealing with the additional challenge of having been blinded in a concentration camp, the book transitions to Max's need to get over his paralyzingly fear of dogs in order to have a seeing-eye companion in a PTSD easing four-legged friend. ...more
May 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
The subtitle makes it sound pretty Hallmark-y. And it has such moments in the second half. The book is actually two stories: pre-war and post-war. The first half is Max Edelman’s gut-wrenching experience as a Jew in Nazi-occupied Poland during WWII, where the brutalities cost him his eyesight. The second half is Max’s life after the war: marrying, moving to Cleveland, OH, having children, focusing on his reluctant bond with his first seeing-eye dog.

May 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a beautiful and poignant biography about a Holocaust survivor.
Nov 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loved this and Thunder dog—service dogs are amazing!
This book guides you to realize two things: the horrors of Holocaust and the healing power of guide dogs. It is a story of a Holocaust survivor, who despite his initial fear of dogs came to love them. Moshe (Max) Edelman was sent to a concentration camp at the age of 17 and lived through the horrors of Nazi Germany at the time. He witnessed and felt the terrifying events inside and outside of the camp. Before he lost his eyesight due to a vicious attack against him by Nazi soldiers he observed a ...more
Samantha Shank
Feb 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wwii-nonfiction
Sesame Street's Mr. Rogers said, "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." I burst into tears when Erich - who didn't even know Max prior - helped save Max's life fully knowing what the consequences would be if he were caught hiding a blind Jew.

I also can't forget Max's incredible brothers, Jack and Sigmund, who helped and encouraged Max every step of the way. There were also many ot
Ginny G
Jul 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
There are so many fine reasons to pick up this book. You will first be drawn in by a riveting true tale of a teenage boy whose dreams are smashed by the Holocaust. The writing is so rich in detail and history that you feel you're with Max Edelman throughout his austere early years as you follow him into the hell of the concentration camps. You will marvel at how he suffered and persevered to come out alive when so many others did not. On an entirely different level, perhaps you'll stumble across ...more
Mar 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is half about the Holocaust, half about how a blind survivor overcame his fear of dogs (which were used to maul people to death in Nazi camps) enough to become dependent upon three of them as guide-dogs during his later years. It is about "the magic" healing nature that a dog can provide. In Max's case, he needed a guide-dog to increase his mobility (that which a cane cannot provide), and he fought against his fears until he felt truly open and trusting with his guide-dog Calvin. I found it ...more
Chrisann Justice
Mar 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: holocaust-war
This was a Holocaust survival story unlike any other I have ever read for many reasons. First of all the very fact that Max is able to survive the camps once he is blinded is miraculous. The fact that his brothers and others are able to cover for his disability and help him survive is a testament of their love the fact that there was much goodness in the face of so much evil. And there are some sides of the evil that I hadn't heard about before reading this book. The differences in what was offe ...more
Apr 08, 2015 rated it liked it
This is a true story about a Polish teenager who survived horrifying ordeals at the hands of the Nazis during WWII that left him blind. His brothers, a couple of concentration camp staff members, and a few others helped him survive physically but the emotional scars followed him throughout his life.

The twin challenges of his blindness and his past affected everything as he soldiered through life. When it came time to get a guide dog, he had to face his terror of dogs - caused by what he saw in
Charlotte O'donnell
Feb 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Great insight into the life of the blind and the impact of seeing eye dogs on their lives as well as those around them. Based on the true story of a holocaust survivor it was done with compassion and understanding but full awareness of the horrors of WWII and the Nazis. Also brought to light the discrimination that existed within the U.S. during those times towards handicapped individuals and races. Very well written and lessons learned were very good. Would recommend it to all but be aware that ...more
Nov 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book presented parts of the Holocaust that I had never read before, that in itself is worth the rating. But also the story of adjusting to having a dog 24/7 when the only experiences you have had with dogs was horrifying.

Now I will stand on my soap box please The people of the greatest generation who went through WWII are dying off--soon there will be no one left who remembers the atrocities and terrible cost that this war cost--Please read at least one historical WWII book so that we can
Lonnie West
Feb 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
No book about the Holocaust is fun, but the second half of this book is as special as the first part is hard. Max saw men torn to pieces by dogs in the concentration camps. He was afraid of dogs--but NEEDED one. He'd lost his sight during the holocaust. He wanted to live life once deliverance finally came; to be mobile and independent. A guide dog was needed. This story takes us through 3 service dogs along with learning how dogs are chosen for their people.

Max is in his 80s. His brother died i
Melissa Kayden
Dec 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
A truly inspiring story about a Holocaust Survivor who lost his sight during his time in the concentration camp. After immigrating to America and becoming an outstanding citizen who taught himself English and became an advocate for blind, he has to learn to trust a dog (after being terrified of them for years due to experiences during the War) and develops wonderful relationships with several dogs. I was so inspired by this man that I wanted to email him, only to learn that he died a month befor ...more
Jenny Wood
Jan 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Heartbreaking and inspiring

This book not only provides a good lesson in history, but it also takes the reader through an incredible journey of one man's life as he, with the help of his brothers and fellow prisoners, manages to escape certain death in the labor camps on numerous occasions, despite having been rendered completely blind in the process. But even long after his release and rescue, Max has deamons of his own to battle, only one of which is his unlikely partnership with a guide dog..
Jul 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I'm a little biased here since I'm involved with Guiding Eyes for the Blind and I foster Tobi's Mom (Tobi was Max's 3rd guide dog) but I loved this book. I was engrossed in what Max had to say about his Holocaust experience. Absolutely terrible and amazing that he survived. I would have loved to have met him and am sad to hear he has passed away. It may not have been the best written book but Max's expereinces with the holocaust, guide dogs and life in general make it worth the read. We could al ...more
Tom Weaver
Mar 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Sharon Peters has resoundingly touched on the heart and soul between the relationship of human needs and the unbreakable bond of one's pet. Intertwined the story of a holocaust survivor, the amazing magical healing process which evolves not only with the principles involved but all those who come in contact with them. This is such an uplifting story. All the emotions I could muster bubbled up inside me leaving me drained to my core. This was a tremendous read in all aspects.
Evelyn Krippendorf
Exceptionally good book!

I rarely write reviews because it takes away from my reading time, but this book is so well-written and moving and informative that I could not resist. It is about the evils of the Holocaust, the will, courage, and sometimes the luck of randomness of those who survived the unspeakable horrors inflicted upon them, starting over in a new place. learning to be independent despite a grave disability. and using one's losses and experiences to help others. It will make you cry
Dec 27, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir
I am drawn to most Holocaust survivor accounts, but it was the service dog portion that drew to me to this book and I was rewarded. Max and Calvin's (and Boyschick's and Tobi's) story is profound, as I believe most animal/human stories are. Max's survivor narrative is vital, as are all Holocaust suvivor narratives, to hear, know, honor, and remember.

And now, I want a dog again, to help heal my own shell-shocked, hardened exterior--to learn to trust in love again.
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