“The girl in the blue coat” Monica Hesse

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. To be published April 5, 2016. Little Brown and Company.

TheGirlInTheBlueCoatDespite assurances to the contrary, Hitler invaded the Netherlands in 1941. Two years have passed since the Dutch accepted the invasion in order to avoid bombings of major cities. During that time, methodically watching the capture and deportation of their Jewish citizens by the Nazis has become a way of life.

Hanneke Baker trades in black market goods with the rich citizens of Amsterdam. Having been dealt a rough blow at the start of the occupation she taught herself to hide her emotions, deal only in cash and have “survival first” as her motto. One of her customers, Mrs. Janssen, had been hiding Mirjam, a young Jewish girl, for a month when Mirjam suddenly disappeared. With nowhere turn Mrs. Janssen offered Hanneke money to locate Mirjam. The only clue she had was Mirjam had been wearing a blue coat and had been reading a Resistance magazine. Intrigued that Mirjam seemed to have disappeared without a trace, Hanneke decided to accept the money.

While seeking clues to Mirjam’s whereabouts Hanneke learned about the work of the Resistance, and began to finally put real faces and feelings onto the thousands of Jews being deported. Despite the circumstances Hanneke holds out hope, but finds herself racing against time hoping to find Mirjam before it’s too late.

“The Girl in the Blue Coat” will keeps readers turning pages until its final, unexpected ending.

I graciously received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Prisoner B-3087” Alan Gratz, Ruth Gruener, and Jack Gruener

Rated 5 stars ***** 2013. Scholastic Press. 260 pp. (Includes “Afterword”).

PrisonerB-3087In 1939 Krakow Poland, Yanek Gruener lived a good life with his parents in their small apartment on Krakusa Street. He was just 10 years old, and loved entertaining his aunts, uncles and cousins with made up stories from watching American movies. When the German army invaded Poland that year, his life changed forever.

Change began with small things such as being ostracized at school but, gradually, the changes got worse and worse. Soon, Yanek and his family were hiding out in a pigeon coop on the roof of their building to avoid night raids and beatings by the Nazis. They managed to stay together for 3 years, before Yanek lost his entire family and was sent to the first of 10 concentration camps.

In one of the camps Yanek was tattooed with the number B-3087 and, in chronological order, Gratz takes readers to all the places where Yanek was sent when he was just 13 years old. These camps included Plaszow (1942-1943), a barracks at the Wieliczka Salt Mine (1943-1944), Trzebina (1944), Birkenau (1944-1945) and Auschwitz (1945).

With the Allies approaching the Nazis forced their prisoners on two different death marches, which ultimately led Yanek to spend time at Sachsenhausen (1945), Bergen-Belsen (1945), Buchenwald (1945), Gross-Rosen (1945), and Dachau (1945). Along with his hopes and fears Yanek tells of the beatings, starvations and other horrors he endured in these camps and on the forced marches, while the goal of survival kept him alive.

“Prisoner B-3087” is based on Jack Gruener’s life, and is an important look into the dark past of World War II. We need to remember what happened during the Holocaust while never forgetting those who died, and those who survived.

Recommended for readers aged 12 and older.

Listed on the ALA (American Library Association’s) Best Fiction for Young Adults list (compiled by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).

“Forgive me, Leonard Peacock” Matthew Quick

Rated 4 stars **** 2013. Little, Brown & Company (Hachette Book Group). 273 pp.

ForgiveMeLeonardPeacockLeonard Peacock is very angry because today is his 18th birthday and no one remembered, including his own absentee mother who moved to New York and left him alone in New Jersey. To celebrate he cuts off all his hair, and wraps presents to deliver to four people who made a difference in his life. He plans to end the day by killing his former best friend with his grandfather’s old World War II gun then killing himself.

Through Leonard’s first person accounts, letters written to himself in the future, and copious footnotes, readers see someone who is highly intelligent, misunderstood, hurt and confused. His next-door neighbor Walt, and World War II Holocaust teacher Herr Silverman are the only ones with whom he can be himself. With Walt he can watch Humphrey Bogart movies and disappear into a fantasy life, while Herr Silverman challenges him creatively, making him feel like a real person who matters in life.

Gradually readers come to see why Leonard is so desperate, and gain understanding into the person he was forced to become by those in his life who hurt him. The pain he suffers, and the solutions he chooses to ease that pain, are explored in detail and will give readers food for thought. Hopefully Leonard’s story will enable teens suffering through this kind of pain to realize there is hope, and that suicide isn’t the answer to their problems.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

Listed on the ALA (American Library Association’s) Best Fiction for Young Adults list (compiled by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).

“From Holocaust to Harvard: A Story of Escape, Forgiveness and Freedom” John G. Stoessinger

Rated 4 stars **** ebook. ARC. To be published September 2, 2014. Skyhorse Publishing.

FromHolocaustToHarvardIn 1938, when John was 10 years old, he witnessed Hitler’s triumphal procession into Austria. With the introduction of the Hitler Youth, his life at school became miserable because he was Jewish. His father had disappeared long ago, and he hardly saw his mother so it was with great joy he received the news they’d be moving to Prague to stay with his grandparents to get away from Hitler’s new rules against the Jewish people.

Unfortunately Hitler, his army and rules followed them to Prague so, in desperation, his mother married a man who hated her son but who promised to save them from Hitler. Through the help of sympathetic men in positions of power and their life savings, the three of them were given visas to Shanghai China where John spent his formative years.

After the war John’s dream of going to school in America came true when several Americans arranged for him to get a scholarship to a college in Iowa. In America he flourished and, eventually went on to get his doctorate at Harvard, worked for the U.N., and met many famous political figures. Though he struggled with relationships, intimacy and trust, John managed to make a difference in the lives of many whom he touched.

“From Holocaust to Harvard” explores the theme of true evil and good people who were willing to take a stand to follow their conscience and work against Hitler’s regime. John is just one of many thousands who survived Hitler and found success in America, showing how immigrants are the foundation of our great nation.

Recommended for Adult readers.

“Hidden like Anne Frank: 14 True Stories of Survival” Marcel Prins & Peter Henk Steenhuis

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Published March 25, 2014. Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic). (First published as Ondergedoken als Anne Frank in the Netherlands in 2011). Includes Foreword, Photographs of The Hidden Children Today, and a Glossary.

HiddenLikeAnneFrankSurvivors of World War II who, as children, were forced to leave their homes to live hidden, secret lives in various places in the Netherlands, tell their stories in “Hidden like Anne Frank.” While some were sent to live with friends or neighbors, many were hidden away with kind (and not-so-kind) strangers. All created a new identity, as instant deportation and death would be their fate if their Jewish identities were discovered.

Readers are told of the years of deprivation they suffered while hidden away including lack of privacy, hunger, the inability to attend school, living through the constant fear of being betrayed by Nazi sympathizers, and having their childhoods stolen from them. We read of their shock and sadness after liberation when they learned the fate of relatives who had been killed in concentration camps. We learn of the bravery of strangers who sacrificed their own freedoms to hide these Jewish children and other adults, while also learning of those who fought bravely in the Resistance Movement to save Jewish lives. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things stand out in the midst of tragedy, fear, prejudice, ignorance, suspicion, distrust and uncertainty.

Using first person accounts, along with period photographs and maps, Prins and Henk Steelhuis take readers through their memories, fears, hopes and dreams. While they survived, many of their parents, brothers and sisters did not leaving them with guilt that remains to this day.

“Hidden like Anne Frank” deserves a place in every middle, high school and public library so their stories, as well as the acts of kindness and bravery from members of the Resistance and total strangers striving to save some of the Jewish population of the Netherlands, will be remembered forever.

Recommended for ages 12 and up.

NOTE: I am sure “Hidden like Anne Frank” will be in the running for the 2015 Mildred L. Batchelder Award. It has my vote!

“Beyond Courage: The untold story of Jewish resistance during the Holocaust” Doreen Rappaport

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). Published September 12, 2012. Candlewick Press. 240 pp. (Includes Acknowledgements, Pronunciation Guide, Timeline of Important Dates and Events, Source Notes for each Chapter, Bibliography, Sources by Chapter, and an Index).

Rappaport used period photographs, maps, drawings, memoirs, diaries, survivor interviews, newspapers and other archival records to document this well researched and informative guide. Readers gain background information about events that took place in Berlin, the Netherlands, France, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Lithuania, Belgium and other Eastern European countries as early as 1933 and continuing on through the 21st century, as well as the people who played an important part in those events.

Along with detailing historical backgrounds for events which made it necessary to resist, Rappaport crafted personal narratives within each country which allowed readers to understand why it was necessary for many Jewish individuals and groups to resist. She also included information on Gentiles who risked their own lives to help save Jews, and who died for them. Whether these groups and individuals risked their lives to forge documents, hid families and individuals, fought while living in forests, squirreled away children, or hid something as simple as a spoon, Rappaport creates emotional and historical information for all of them.

“Beyond Courage” is touching, painful, insightful and an important book to have in public as well as middle and high school libraries. Students aged 11-18 will learn much about courage, but will also learn about groups and individuals who quietly and boldly resisted in powerful and unexpected ways. They, and their works, should never be forgotten.