Rating: 5 (starred review)
Genre: Middle-grade historical fiction
What did you like about the book? This is a novel inspired by the life Irena Sendler, a social worker and Resistance spy who smuggled children out of the Warsaw ghetto during World War II. But it is told from the perspective of Anna Bauman, one of the Jewish children she rescued, and it is really Anna’s story. The reader feels Anna’s wonder at finally having enough to eat and being freed from the ghetto, but also understands the enormous cost: Anna has to pretend that her parents are dead and deny her Jewish faith. Anna is a sympathetic character, and the people she meets are kind to her. Many are also taking a great risk to help her and the other children. But Anna lives in fear: fear of making a mistake and giving the wrong information about her new life, religious faith, and even her name. She also fears that she will forget her real name, family members, and who she truly is. Considering the fact that she is only 9 years old (and has to pretend that she is 8) when the book begins, this is a staggering burden. Very moving and thought-provoking, this book should spark some excellent family and/or classroom discussions. The book concludes with a fascinating author’s note, including a photograph of the author, her daughter, and the real Irena Sendler, a true heroine and role model.
Anything you didn’t like about it? Nothing. This is excellent historical fiction. I do wonder if older readers will bypass the book because Anna is only 9 when the book begins. Encourage them to give it a try because there is a lot of depth here, and Anna is wise beyond her years.
To whom would you recommend this book? Read Alikes? There are a number of excellent books about the Holocaust for this age group. Pair it with Hide and Seek and Anna is Still Here, both by Ida Vos, as well as Number the Stars by Lois Lowry or The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen, and also, for slightly younger readers, Stone Angel by Jane Yolen.
Who should buy this book? Public and school libraries should own this book.
Where would you shelve it ? Middle grade fiction
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Near the top at least. It is a worthwhile read.
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Renée Wheeler, Leominster Public Library, Leominster, MA
Date of review: October 22, 2015