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Friday, November 10, 2017

Based On a True Story, MG Holocaust Novel Touching, Eye-Opening Tale of Survival

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When the Nazis invade Krakow, the life of Jacob "Yanek" Gruener changes forever.  Jews are no longer safe in Poland.  Not even a harmless 10-year-old boy.  Crowded into a city ghetto with other Jews, Yanek and his family must eke out a life with little privacy, scant food, and no freedom.  Despite the hardships they endure, the Grueners are grateful to be together while all around them, friends and neighbors disappear daily.  

One day, the inevitable happens and Yanek is left all alone.  When the Nazis finally capture him, he's sent to a concentration camp.  His youth and relative strength mark him as "lucky"—as long as he can work, he can survive.  Moved from camp to camp, Yanek does everything he can to survive.  The more he suffers, the more he wonders if living is even worth it.  As hope dwindles and his "health"—the only thing keeping him alive—seeps out of him, Yanek longs to give up.  Will he continue his fight for survival, for freedom?  Will liberation come soon enough to save a young boy who's rapidly losing hope?  

Based on a true story, Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz tells an amazing tale of survival.  Like all concentration camp novels, it details the unbelievable horrors suffered by people who actually lived.  It's fiction, yes, but it's grounded in harsh, shocking reality.  It's an eye-opening novel, one that's both eye-opening and touching.  As haunting as it is, the novel is a perfect one to hand to kids who want to learn more about the Holocaust.  They'll definitely root for Yanek to persevere; in turn, they might just be inspired to push through their own challenges with courage and determination.

(Readalikes: Reminds me of other Holocaust books for children, including The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen, Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, and Making Bombs for Hitler by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence, blood/gore, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find


  1. Oh, I loved this book! I read it a couple of years ago and have never forgotten it. What he went's a true miracle that he survived it all.

    1. It's hard to believe ANYONE could survive such a harrowing experience, let alone a little kid. His story is amazing!

  2. While I myself could never read this one (just can’t handle Holocaust stories) I think it’s great that this book exists and is written for kids. They need to know about this historic event.

    1. Plus, MG Holocaust books aren't nearly as graphic as YA or adult ones. They tend to get the horror of the experience across without going into the worst details.

  3. This sounds like a powerful story. I don't read a lot of MG but might need to add this one. Great review!

    1. I love MG fiction for fast, easy reads. Although this one deals with a heavy subject, it's still a quick read, but definitely one that resonates!


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