Irena’s Children: Young Readers Edition by Tilar J. Mazzeo; adapted by Mary Cronk Farrell. September 27, 2016. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 272 p. ISBN: 9781481449915. Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.6.
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.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Harsh realities of war; Genocide; Anti-Semitism; Violent images and imagery; The Holocaust; Sexual assault; Xenophobia
Booklist (September 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 2))
Grades 5-8. Farrell adapts Mazzeo’s adult book for young readers, recounting the inspiring true story of Polish social worker Irena Sendler, who risked her life to save 2,500 Jewish children in the Warsaw ghetto from the Nazis during WWII. Between 1939 through 1945, ghetto inhabitants increasingly died of disease and starvation and were deported to extermination camps. In the midst of these horrific living conditions, Sendler and a small group of mostly female Jewish friends falsified Jewish children’s paperwork, giving them Catholic identities, and ingeniously smuggled them out of the ghetto under overcoats, in coffins and toolboxes, and through underground sewers and tunnels. Known as “the female Oskar Schindler,” Sendler was arrested and interrogated by the Nazis but never broke under torture. She was short in stature but had immense courage and didn’t consider herself a hero: “What I did was not an extraordinary thing.” The children Sendler saved and the readers of this moving biography would undoubtedly disagree.
Kirkus Reviews (June 15, 2016)
In Jewish belief, there are righteous people in every generation who can repair a tear in the universe. Irena Sendler was truly one of them.Born into a comfortable Polish Catholic family, Irena had many Jewish friends growing up, and they shared idealistic beliefs. When the Germans invaded Poland and set off World War II, she was determined to assist the Jewish population in any way possible, especially those in the walled-off Warsaw ghetto. Carrying necessary papers she was able to enter and leave the ghetto. She and like-minded Poles rescued as many as 2,500 Jewish children, carefully recording names and keeping them in a jar (never found). She kept up her mission even as conditions within the walls became worse, as starvation, disease, the “murderous brutality” of the German occupying forces, and deportations to extermination camps grew in intensity. Even arrest, torture, and a miraculous release from certain death did not stop her. Farrell’s adaptation of Mazzeo’s adult title (2016) clearly presents her life and the ever present reality of death in a sobering, heartbreaking narrative. Readers will understand how Sendler came to be honored by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial as one of the Righteous Among the Nations. (Biography. 12-18)
About the Author
Tilar J. Mazzeo is a cultural historian, biographer, and passionate student of wine and food culture. She divides her time among the California wine country, New York City, and Maine, where she is a professor of English at Colby College.
Her website is www.tilar-mazzeo-author.com.
I’m an award-winning author of Children’s/YA books and former journalist with a passion for stories about people facing great adversity with courage. Writing such stories has shown me that in our darkest moments we have the opportunity to discover our true identity and follow an inner compass toward the greater good.
Both my fiction and non-fiction titles feature little-known true stories of history based on thorough research. Most include an author’s note, bibliography and further resources, but they are not dry, scholarly tomes! Confronting grief, adversity and failure in my own life, enables me to write stories with an authentic emotional core.
My books have been named Notable Social Studies Book for Young People, SPUR Award for Best Juvenile Fiction about the American West, Bank Street College List of Best Children’s Books, and NY Public Library Best Books for Teens. My journalistic work has received numerous awards for excellence from the Society of Professional Journalists and two Emmy nominations.
Her website is www.marycronkfarrell.net.
Irena’s Children Reading Group Guide
Irena Sendler and the Warsaw Ghetto Lesson Plan
The Warsaw Ghetto Lesson Plan
Around the Web
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