The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


March 4, 2013

Cari Rerat: Holocaust story a harrowing tale

JOPLIN, Mo. — In "Prisoner B-3087," by Alan Gratz, Yanek is 10 years old when Krakow, Poland, falls to the Nazis. He and his parents live in a neighborhood that the Nazis wall off as the Jewish ghetto, so they have to take family after family into their small apartment to make room for everyone who is relocated.

After three years of living in constant fear -- whether it be fear of being taken by the Nazis, fear that their apartment will be raided for valuables, or fear that they will be shot dead in the streets -- Yanek sees his mother and father in a group of Jews who are being "deported." He is filled with the terrible certainty that they are being taken to their deaths.

Yanek, now 13, decides at that moment that he will survive at all costs to honor his family. Yanek sticks to his decision throughout the next three years as he survives death marches, starvation and beatings between 10 concentration camps.

"Prisoner B-3087" is based on the true story of Jack Gruener. Jack's story is even more remarkable than the fictionalized version, but Alan Gratz does an excellent job of detailing Yanek's survival and the atrocities of the Holocaust.

Gratz has a gift for finding the balance between writing about historical events in a factual way and keeping Yanek's voice true and realistic as he survives horror after horror.

Prisoner B-3087 was not an easy book for me to read because there is no separation between this book and reality -- these events really happened. While I read, I wondered how it is possible to survive what Yanek survives and whether or not I would have the strength to do so. I am still not sure.

There is certainly no lack of books about the Holocaust in children's and teen's literature. Alan Gratz has written one that can proudly stand alongside some of the best. I read an advance review copy, but the book will be available for checkout at the library later this month.

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