Irena thought of something her father had told her. “If you see someone drowning,” he had said, “you must jump in and save them, whether you can swim or not.”
“The children are hurting the most,” she decided. “I have to give them a helping hand.”
(from Jars of Hope)
Quick summary: Jars of Hope: How One Woman Helped Save 2,500 Children During the Holocaust is a children’s picture book written by Jennifer Roy and illustrated by Meg Owenson that tells the story of Irena Sendler, a social worker in Poland during World War II who helped smuggle around 2,500 children out of the Warsaw Ghetto. Roy explains how Sendler helped the children escape, how she saved the lists of their names, and how she survived the war herself.
Why I wanted to read it: Several years ago, my daughter and I watched the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler, and of course, we were fascinated by her story. I’m also a fan of Roy’s since reading Yellow Star, her Aunt Sylvia’s Holocaust survival story, and meeting both Roy and her aunt at a book festival a few years ago.
What I liked: I applaud Roy for introducing Sendler to young readers and emphasizing how ordinary people can do extraordinary things in the face of evil. The book is age-appropriate, showing the danger Sendler and the Jewish families faced without going into much detail. Owenson’s illustrations are detailed and vibrant, using color to denote the warmth of family and the cold and desolation Sendler faced in prison. I appreciated the author’s notes at the end that briefly wrap up Sendler’s story and explain Roy’s inspiration for the book.
What I disliked: The book only scratches the surface of Sendler’s story and makes it difficult for readers to feel connected to Sendler, but that is understandable given that it is short and intended for young children.
Final thoughts: Jars of Hope is a beautiful story of courage, love, hope, daring, and survival. To think that one women had a hand in saving thousands of children during the Holocaust is inspirational and still brings people hope decades later. It is important to remember people like Irena Sendler, who selflessly gave all they had, sometimes even their lives, to do what was right. It also is important that children are introduced to these unsung heroes, and Jars of Hope is a book for parents and children to read and discuss together.
Disclosure: I received Jars of Hope from IWPR Group for review.
© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.