• Type: Books
  • By: Jennifer A. Nielsen
  • Age Category: Children
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Recommended by: Tom S.
  • ISBN/UPC: 9781338148473
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Bringing war to the Nazi occupiers

Several fine novels for young people about the eastern European theater of World War II have emerged over the last few years; "Anna and the Swallow Man", "Finding Zasha", "Salt to the Sea", "The Red Ribbon", and "The Boy in Striped Pajamas" are a few examples.  In this book, Chaya, a 16-year-old Jewish girl, joins the resistance movement in Poland.  Her blonde hair and fair skin allow her to pass as an ethnic Pole, and she becomes a courier, sneaking in and out of Jewish ghettos delivering food, messages, and weapons.  The book culminates with Chaya’s involvement in street fighting inside the Warsaw Ghetto itself.

One of this book’s great strengths is its nuanced view of the relationship between Polish Jews and non-Jewish Poles, the latter of whom Chaya simply calls “Poles”.  Even though people in both groups were oppressed by the German occupiers, there was not necessarily a sense of solidarity among them.  Many ethnic Poles did risk their lives to aid and protect Jews, but others readily reported Jewish people to their Nazi overlords in hopes of receiving preferential treatment.  A handful of Jews even betrayed their co-religionists. But despite the overwhelming darkness of the Holocaust, we also see that such virtues as courage, loyalty, and compassion can still have meaning in the most harrowing circumstances.

An intriguing look at some heroes of World War II who did not wear uniforms.