10 concentration camps.
10 different places where you are starved, tortured, and worked mercilessly.
It’s something no one could imagine surviving.
But it is what Yanek Gruener has to face.
As a Jewish boy in 1930s Poland, Yanek is at the mercy of the Nazis who have taken over. Everything he has, and everyone he loves, have been snatched brutally from him. And then Yanek himself is taken prisoner — his arm tattooed with the words PRISONER B-3087.
He is forced from one nightmarish concentration camp to another, as World War II rages all around him. He encounters evil he could have never imagined, but also sees surprising glimpses of hope amid the horror. He just barely escapes death, only to confront it again seconds later.
Can Yanek make it through the terror without losing his hope, his will — and, most of all, his sense of who he really is inside?
Based on an astonishing true story.
This poignant story, based on the experiences of Yanek Gruener, would be the perfect starting point for MG readers just learning about the atrocities of the Holocaust. While full of sorrow, Yanek’s story is full of hope as he faces adversity head on. It may be hard to believe that Yanek is able to keep his head up and not wish ill on his fellow inmates as he suffers in one camp after another, slowly dehumanized, but “hard to believe” and “impossible” are two different things, and I not only find it possible, but I also highly admire Yanek, and all those who experienced this wicked time in our world’s history. I would say that, while this isn’t a joyous story by any means, it is in fact less depressing than others I’ve read, such as Night, by Elie Wiesel, and that is why I think it’d be a great starting point for MG students. It gives just enough information about the events of the timeframe to pique reader interest, but not to scar the still fragile minds of 6th and 7th graders through tough descriptions and imagery. Instead, this book readies young minds for a deeper study of the topic, which they will face in high school. The writing of this novel is easy to understand as well, another reason this would be a great choice for MG readers. Four stars.
Scholastic Inc. has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read a copy of this novel, via Netgalley.