Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz Book Review

Posted February 21, 2013 by Tara in Review /// 14 Comments

A first I didn't like this cover, but now I think it's fitting.
A first I didn’t like this cover, but now I think it’s fitting.

Title: Prisoner B-3087
Author: Alan Gratz
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: 3/1/2013
Length: 272 pages
Series?: Standalone
Genre: YA historical fiction
Format: e-book
Source: ARC from NetGalley

Yanek Gruener is ten years old, Jewish, and living in Poland in the late 1930’s. One day, the Nazis take over his town and Yanek’s journey through the Jewish ghetto and ten different concentration camps begins. Yanek watches as everything, and everyone, he loves is taken away from him. There’s no escape — only survival. Every time Yanek barely escapes death, every time he watches the Nazi’s brutally murder those around them, he pledges to fight by living to carry on the memory of those who were lost.

Prisoner B-3087 is the amazing, gripping tale of Yanek’s survival in ten different Nazi concentration camps, and it is based on a true story. The afterward explains the story of the real Yanek Gruener and his real experiences that are included in the novel. That is, perhaps, what make this novel so fascinating and gut-wrenching to read. Comparisons to The Boy in the Striped Pajamas are natural, but Gratz’s story takes us into the Holocaust in a way I haven’t experience in any other middle grades/YA novel.

Teachers especially should take note here. Because Prisoner B-3087 covers life before, during, and after the Holocaust, as well as experiences in ten different camps (including the salt mines and death marches), it is an excellent classroom read for a unit on World War II. Students could map Yanek’s journey, research the different camps, investigate the how the war affected Yanek’s movements between camps. Students can map Yanek’s journey to Plaszow, Wieliezka Salt Mine, Trzebinia, Birkenau, Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Gross-Rosen, and Dachau throughout the story. Most importantly, students can gain an empathetic glimpse into the day-to-day horrors of life as a concentration camp prisoner and the struggle to survive in horrible conditions.

FINAL GRADE:  A  You need to read this book. Put it in your middle school, high school, and public libraries. Add it to your curriculum. Read it. Cry. Pull your blanket close and be thankful for your warmth, house, food, water, and freedom. Thank you, Alan Gratz, for writing this novel. Thank you to Yanek Gruener, especially, for sharing his story.

Which works of Holocaust fiction/memoir have made an impact on you? Which would you use with students in the classroom?


Tara is a PhD student studying education. Her dissertation will be on digital book communities as public pedagogy (ask her about it!), though she often takes a break from all of that to read books about oppressive governments and sassy teenagers. In a former life, she was a middle school teacher and middle school librarian. In her future life, she's a professor of YA lit. In her free time, she drinks a lot of coffee while planning her next grand adventure (there's always something).

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14 responses to “Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz Book Review

  1. This looks like a great read! It’s interesting…I’ve heard that it can be difficult to get YA historicals published, but recently there seems to be a lot of successful ones set during WWII (e.g. Code Name Verity, The Book Thief). What a great way for kids to learn about this important historical period.

  2. Excellent review, Tara! I will definitely be looking into this book; it’s not one I’d heard of before! The Book Thief is the best Holocaust book I’ve read (aside from Anne Frank & Elie Wiesel’s Night). Some of my students are actually reading The Book Thief now in lit circles! Depending on the age, I’d teach Anne Frank the play or her diary. I’d also consider The Book Thief, despite the fact that it’s pretty hefty compared to other books typically used in the classroom, Night, and Number the Stars. I would also definitely consider teaching both Between Shades of Grey and Code Name Verity if it were a broader unit on WWII.

  3. Thank you for the review! I am a school library lady and I am always looking for good books for my students!! This is great! I really enjoy your blog. Keep it up!

  4. I have read a lot of Holocaust books. (70, to be exact) but this was one of the best books I have ever read. What made this book unique for me was the humanity. Yanek states multiple times he is YANEK, he is a HUMAN being. I loved this.

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