I'm not sure how I missed Alan Gratz's work before, but I have definitely fallen in love with his books this year. Yesterday I read PRISONER B-3087, a historical fiction novel based on the true story of Jack Gruener. Yanek Gruener was a Jewish boy, living in Krakow, Poland, when it was taken over by the Germans in 1939.
Listen to how the book begins:
If I had known what the next six years of my life were going to look like, I would have eaten more.
I wouldn't have complained about brushing my teeth, or taking a bath, or going to bed at 8 o'clock every night. I would have hugged my parents and told them that I loved them.
But I was ten years old, and I had no idea of the nightmare that was to come. None of us did.In the beginning, Yanek and his parents survive by hiding in a pigeon coop on top of their apartment, but ultimately, Yanek's parents are captured, and then he is. Yanek spends time in ten different camps, survives beatings, numerous trips in cattle cars, and two extended marches. Somehow he maintains the will to live.
I loved this story, and read it one sitting. It's an intense read, though, and I'd definitely read it myself before recommending it to kids. Kids younger than middle school may or may not be ready for the content.