From New York Times bestselling author Tilar Mazzeo comes the extraordinary and long forgotten story of Irena Sendler—the “female Oskar Schindler”—who took staggering risks to save 2,500 children from death and deportation in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II—now adapted for a younger audience.
Irena Sendler was a young Polish woman living in Warsaw during World War II with an incredible story of survival and selflessness. And she’s been long forgotten by history.
This young readers edition of Irena’s Children tells Irena’s unbelievable story set during one of the worst times in modern history. With guts of steel and unfaltering bravery, Irena smuggled thousands of children out of the walled Jewish ghetto in toolboxes and coffins, snuck them under overcoats at checkpoints, and slipped them through the dank sewers and into secret passages that led to abandoned buildings, where she convinced her friends and underground resistance network to hide them.
In this heroic tale of survival and resilience in the face of impossible odds, Tilar Mazzeo and adapter Mary Cronk Farrell share the true story of this bold and brave woman, overlooked by history, who risked her life to save innocent children from the horrors of the Holocaust.
Review of Irena's Children: Young Readers Edition; A True Story of Courage
Irena’s Children by Tilar J. Mazzeo is the story of Irena Sendler, a young Polish woman who risked her life on a daily basis to hide, protect and shelter thousands of Polish Jewish children during WWII.
In the early 1900’s Poland had the distinction of being the center of Jewish culture in Europe and was home to the largest Jewish population most residing in the grand cities of Poland. However, a dark ominous presence was sweeping through Europe at the time, The National Socialist German Workers Party, otherwise known as the Nazi’s and with it a reign of terror. When the Nazi’s entered Poland it did not take long for them to take control of the cities and streets. Thus began one of Poland’s darkest moments in history when the Jewish population began to be singled out. Lifelong Jewish residents were now thrown out of their homes, delegated to a ghetto, a work camp or even worse deported to a death camp.
During this time Irena Sendler was a senior administrator for a branch of the city’s welfare office that ran soup kitchens across Warsaw. One of Irena’s jobs was to interview needy families and provide statistics to the state. This allowed Irena and a close knit group of friends to alter names and dates to allow Jewish families to receive benefits they would normally not receive due to new edicts from the Nazi occupiers in Poland. Irena with the help of her friends would requisition and divert funds via these made up names to secure money, clothing and desperately needed food supplies to these Jewish families. But this was just a small part of Irena’s work. Identity papers were now required for all Polish citizens. No papers meant prison and for some certain death. Irena and her friends had promised themselves to defy anti-Jewish directives and supply non Jewish names to Jewish families, in particular to children, teenagers and infants. Their work began to grow as well as their circle of helpers and resistance fighters as it became clear that the Nazi agenda was to annihilate the entire Jewish population of Poland. Racing against the clock, Irena with the aid of her friends would risk imprisonment, torture and even death to hide and shelter thousands of Jewish families, infants and children by any means possible. This became her oath and thus became her life.
I really liked and would highly recommend Irena’s Children for anyone wanting to learn more about the plight of Jewish children and those that helped to save them during WWII. It was a beautifully written portrayal of how one person or one group of people with faith and a fighting spirit can make a difference in the most horrible of circumstances. Irena’s Children was thought provoking, heroic and hard to read but harder to put down. The horrific conditions under which these Jewish families and children had to live was unimaginable. The bravery of the souls, in particular Irena, is awe inspiring and greatly admired. I often found myself wondering if I would have had the courage and strength in the face of pain and the fear of death to do the same. It is thanks to this courageous woman and her group of allies that any children survived at all. This is a story that must be told and re-told for future generations to come. The added addition of photographs was especially appreciated and genius in giving me the ability to see what was being portrayed in words. That being said, my only advise as an avid reader of WWII survivor stories, both non-fiction and fiction is the target audience for this version of Irena’s Children. Unless a parent or teacher is willing to read along with an adolescent and discuss this book, I would not recommend it for anyone under the age of 12. May-be I am being slightly protective, but there are some graphic details in this book that were even hard for me to read and picture and I am a senior adult. I have never believed the atrocities of WWII should in any way be watered down or soft pedaled. The truth must and should be told and I applaud the truth and history in this book. I just feel it could be disturbing for a younger audience and recommend (and it’s only my recommendation) a target audience of 13 and up.
I appreciate being given an advanced copy of Irena’s Children by Tilar J. Mazzeo by Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing via NetGalley for a fair and honest review.
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