Rating: 4 1/2 stars
In “Prisoner B-3087” Alan Gratz takes the true story of Jack Gruener and turns it into a fictional account that is a perfect way for middle grade readers to learn about the Holocaust while reading a book with action and suspense.
Yanek Gruener is only ten when the Nazis change his life forever. Gratz “hooks” the reader from the first sentence: “If I had known what the next six years of my life were going to be like, I would have eaten more.”
Gratz continues to write about Yanek’s life as his family first endures minor indignities and later fatal ones. When the Nazis arrive, the Polish boys decide that the Jews can’t play soccer with them. Poles and Germans won’t buy shoes from his father’s store. And soon, he is told that he can’t attend the public school. Next the synagogue is burned and the wall is built, forcing the Jews to be concentrated in a ghetto.
The story details the horrors of what happened to the Jews during World War II. Yanek ends up going to ten concentration camps. Gratz does not mince words as he describes the cruelties and the terror of those incarcerated behind barbed wire.
There are many who have written books for middle grade readers about the Holocaust. Some are classics like “Number the Stars” by Lois Lowry and “The Diary of Anne Frank.” This book is one that should be read as a companion to those books because it tells the story of those inside the concentration camps.
Please note: This review is based on the final paperback book purchased by the reviewer from the publisher, Scholastic.