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Posts Tagged ‘jennifer roy’

jars of hope

Source: Review copy from IWPR Group
Rating: ★★★★☆

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.

JarsofHopebyJenniferRoyinterior10

Jars of Hope, page 10 (Capstone Young Readers)

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.

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Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

“No, as far as the Nazis know,
there are eight hundred adults
and no children
left in the Lodz ghetto.”

Well, then, aren’t we clever,
I think as I drift off.
We know more than the Nazis do.

(from Yellow Star, page 143)

Yellow Star is the story of Holocaust survivor Sylvia (Syvia) Perlmutter, as told to her niece, Jennifer Roy.  Roy presents her aunt’s story in verse — which reminded me of T4 by Ann Clare LeZotte — intended for middle-grade readers.  Syvia was four-and-a-half when World War II broke out, and she was one of just 12 children to survive the Łódź ghetto.  When the ghetto was liberated by the Soviets in January 1945, only 877 of the more than 200,000 Jews sent there were still alive.

Based on taped conversations with Syvia, Yellow Star is written in the first person, so young readers see the horrors of the ghetto through the eyes of a child with whom they can relate.  Because she is too young to work, Syvia is alone while her parents and older sister are working.  When children under 10 are deported to the Chełmno extermination camp, Syvia must stay hidden indoors and remain quiet at all times.  Even though I knew she survived because she was telling her story, my heart still beat rapidly as I read about how she and her father hid as the Nazis went from room to room, taking children away from their families and sending them to their deaths.

Roy does a great job contrasting Syvia’s innocence with the evil perpetrated by the Nazis.  The family is hungry and cold, her beloved doll was sold and its carriage burned to keep warm, and Syvia occupies herself with clever games.  Even in the midst of all the hardship, there are heartwarming, hopeful moments, particularly in the way that Syvia’s family emphasized her value when the Nazis did their best to make her feel worthless.

A family’s fierce love and will to survive are at the core of Yellow Star.  I never grow tired of these amazing stories of courage and survival during the Holocaust.  Roy shows how Syvia’s family kept their wits about them through the chaos, evading deportation time and again and staying alive when so many others perished.  I read this book in a single afternoon, but I remain haunted by Syvia’s story weeks later.  Yellow Star is a good introduction to the Holocaust for younger readers, but there is much in the poetic prose for adults to appreciate as well.

Disclosure: Yellow Star is from my personal library.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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