Title: Prisoner B-3087
Author: Alan Gratz
Release Date: 3/1/2013
Length: 272 pages
Genre: YA historical fiction
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?
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