Irena's Children: Young Readers Edition; A True Story of Courage Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2017-09-25 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 7 user ratings

" Heartbreaking tale of such courageous people during the Holocaust. " said.

" I can't even begin to explain how important this story is. If you want a real true Holocaust story full of remarkable people, this is the perfect start. " said.

" This is an amazing yet heartbreaking non-fiction book about Irena Sendler, a social worker who risked her life to save thousands of Jewish children from the Nazis. It's rare that a book makes me cry but this one did. " said.

" Good book that was hard to put down. Full of details about Irena that had been suppressed by the Soviets until after the Cold War ended in the 90's. American High School students uncovered her story of heroism. " said.

" The atrocities of WWII have been presented in numerous fiction and non-fiction books. This book presents alongside those atrocities a set of heroes who worked to save thousands of Warsaw children from Nazi extermination. This is a well-adapted book that would make the subject matter very approachable for younger readers. While this book is not overly graphic in nature, it does not shield readers from the terrible acts that were carried out during this time. " said.

"I was not aware that Poland in 1939 was the heart of European Jewry with the highest population. However, statistically Poland was the least forgiving to Jews in their country during WWII. In 1939, Poland had about 3.4 million Jews within their borders. After 1945, there were less than 250,000. Between 100,000-120,00 Jews left Poland for resettlement in Israel between 1946-48 due to post-WWII antisemitic hostilities. At the height of the war, the Nazis were averaging two cattle car shifts per day out of Warsaw with 12,000 people per trip to Treblinka with Hitler's Final Solution.

This book features one of the heroes of the Polish Resistance, Catholic nurse and social worker Irena Sendler. She is referred to as the 'Oskar Schindler of Poland'. She saved over 2,500 Jewish children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw ghetto as part of the underground resistance network she created with other sympathetic friends and colleagues in the medical field.

Several vignettes stand out. One was a trembling Jewish 3 year-old who Irena transported out in public, coaching him to smile and keep quiet. They practiced reciting the Lord's Prayer (which was a favorite Nazi trip-up) and the boy became scared when they boarded a city bus. He started crying and calling out for his mother, in Yiddish. The entire bus fell silent; as the punishment for aiding Jews was being shot on sight. Many Poles aided the Nazis for money or to curry favor. Irena whispered 'help me' to the bus driver, who feigned a vehicle malfunction and unboarded the entire bus a few blocks later. The bus driver then dropped her off in a remote alley and wished her luck.

Another was after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising when Jewish Resistance Fighters revolted on the eve of Passover and kept the Nazis at bay for almost a month in May 1943. The ghetto was then burned to the ground block by block. Before the Jews surrendered, they gave the Nazis the best they had.

"The streets fell silent. The ghetto ground was strewn with dead. Some two hundred resistance fighters, and even more Germans, perished. Old men came from their hiding places to kiss the cold cheeks of the young heroes lying motionless on the sidewalks."

This young reader's edition is highly recommended.

" said.

"Irena Sendler was 29 years old when the Germans took over Warsaw, Poland, where she worked as a social worker. Although she could have chosen to do nothing, she used her position to help Jewish families move to other areas, and as part of a close-knit network of courageous men and women, she helped to smuggle out more than 2,500 children from the Warsaw ghetto. This edition for young readers will have them riveted at how clever she and her companions were, hiding the children in toolboxes, coffins, clothing, and moving them through sewers and passages under buildings to safe houses. Not only did she and her compatriots risk their lives by their actions, but they risked the lives of their families. But what else could they do, given that the truth about the German war camps began to be known? The author effectively captures the danger and suspense of those times during the Holocaust while also acknowledging the difficulty many families faced in giving up their children for a possibility of survival and a new life somewhere. But there was, after all, no guarantee that the children would survive and be safe or that someone in the organization would not betray them. Living like this must have been excruciatingly frightening. Even though Irena was eventually arrested and tortured, she never spilled her secrets, later earning the distinction of Righteous Among the Nations for her actions. Young readers will be fascinated by her acts of courage and heroism and ponder what prompted her to act when others sat idly by and did nothing. Perhaps the book will inspire them to ask themselves what they would have done if they had been in Irena's shoes. Hers is a story that should never be forgotten. There are even details about some of the families who lived in the city's zoos, long since emptied of animals, since they had nowhere else to go. While I thoroughly enjoyed the story and learning more about this woman, sometimes the story leaps from event to event or individual to individual in a way that can be confusing, necessitating that it be read with some patience. Having photographs that depict Warsaw and Irena herself puts a human face to this time and helps readers see the toll the Germans took on the city. For anyone who asks, "What can I do as one person against great evil?" here is a sound rejoinder. You can speak, you can act, and you can work to make changes in the world. Ultimately, you can choose to defy the Hitlers of the past and present. " said.

"I'd say a very large portion of the books I read are historical fiction.

As a general rule though, I consciously make an effort to avoid WWII historical fiction if I can.
I heavily consider WWII to be one of the darkest times in human history that's so well documented from different points of view.
The most horrifying thing to me is that it happened in a civilized, relatively modern time. It's like having a bird's eye view of a Lord of the Flies scenario.

Anyway, the reason why I avoid it in the first place is because it always puts my mind in a really dark place. And usually my mind decides to linger there for a while of its' own volition.

One of my brothers owns a lot of WWII-era historical fiction, as its one of his favorite genres. So while I've been sick for the past week I'd been reading his books until I got the chance to go to the library.
This is one of them.

What I love about this book is that it told the story of many unsung heroes from Poland during this time. And its not just Irena's story; it's the story of many Poles from her network.

We don't hear many stories about women heroes, and I know that they're out there; because women are compassionate and can be brave too. It was honestly very refreshing to hear of so many crammed into this book!

-Something I hear/read from these kind of heroes (especially from during WWII) is that they don't consider themselves heroes because they were just doing what was right. And I think this is the kind of book that really opens up the discussion of whether or not we would actually stick to our moral compass if we found ourselves in a similar situation.-

Irena is a very inspiring woman, and I hope I can develop more of her attributes in my day-to-day life.

It's not possible to connect with every story you read; and I think that this applied to the book. But there are so many stories in there, you are bound to find one that touches your heart.
For me, it's this story:

A set of parents and grandparents reluctantly gave up their infant daughter to Irena, hoping she would find a safe and loving home outside the heavily-guarded Warsaw Ghetto. They pay for their little baby girl out of what little Zlotys they have, sacrificing their day-to-day necessities so she can be provided for in her new family.
After a few months, the infant is set to be christened in the Catholic church and given a new name legally. This will protect the girl with new and official paperwork, old ones destroyed. She will be recognized as a gentile, an Aryan; and will now have a sense of permanency in her new yet familiar world. The parents and grandparents of this little girl who so sadly gave up their precious daughter so she could have a better, safer, life are now likely to never see her again. She will grow up not knowing of the endless love and sacrifices of her biological family.
Irena knew she had to let her family know about the changes happening. In a few months, it was likely that the family would be sent to Nazi death camps, this time eliminating them from their child's life for good, and without choice.
Irena found the grandfather doing slave labor for the Germans. She quickly and quietly informed him before briskly walking away; knowing that comforting him in any way would just put him in more danger of the Gestapo and Judenrate watching with a cruel eye and a fiery whip. No emotions are allowed.
Shortly after her encounter with the grandfather, Irena hears from the baby's adopted family.
They have received an anonymous package in the mail, containing a delicately embroidered christening dress and a stunning, elaborately ornamented gold-plated cross.

This breaks my heart with pain and joy for the baby's biological family. They have shown one of the most true and beautiful forms of love.

Not every Jew during the Holocaust was practicing, or even religious. But in a time where being Jewish becomes you only allowed identity, I can only guess at the mix of pain, longing, and love they must have felt for their little girl. The family probably clung to their culture like so many at the time so desperately did. Knowing that their baby had to give up her religion, heritage, and Jewish family to be safe must have hurt endlessly.

Irena passed away in 2008, and I know she didn't like the praise; but I have to say something because she is the focus of the book.
She was courageous, kind, compassionate, smart, loving, controlled, decisive, a good friend, and most of all; hopeful.
All things I should work on developing more.

The last thing that I wanted to say was that I loved the design of the inside of the book with branches and leaves. It made me smile.
" said.

October 2017 New Book:

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