Irena's Children: Young Readers Edition; A True Story of Courage

Irena's Children (Young Reader's Edition) - Tilar Mazzeo

I had to read this children’s novel after reading Irena's Children: The Extraordinary Story of the Woman Who Saved 2,500 Children from the Warsaw Ghetto which is the adult version of this novel. Written for middle school or older readers, this novel tells the story of Irena Sendler, an extraordinary woman who saved thousands of children in Poland during WWI. Working in the social welfare office, Irena was constantly looking for ways to help the children in this war-torn city. Making up names, she would fake interviews so she could obtain aid to get money to help these children survive. Afraid that the Germans would check on this operation, Irena put the notions that the children had contagious diseases, which keep the Germans at bay. As the situation became direr, Irena found more individuals to help with her cause. Irena was a fighter. She became more determined to help these children survive, they started smuggling items into the ghetto in which the children lived and they tried helping them escape out of the ghetto’s walls. It was a continuous fight, one that took its toll on both the children, the parents, Irena and her team.

The novel showed the hardship that everyone endured as they tried to do the best for the family as this war played out beside them. The decisions that the families had to make, sometimes split-minute decisions as their children’s lives were on the line. The Germans were not stopping, they had a job to do and Irena had a job to do and unfortunately these two jobs were not the same. There is a ton of information inside this novel, an abundance of activity and a lot of characters to keep the pages turning. The novel included black-and-white photographs with captions which I felt brought the story closer to home. There were killing taking place daily, these deaths are hard to keep track of, and the methods that they were using, varied. I highly recommend this novel but with reservations. I believe that it should only be read by individuals who are acknowledgeable in this fight. It should be read by older readers who can manage the text and its contents for it is a difficult subject. I was very happy that the adult novel and this novel were very much alike, I was glad that Irena’s story was not minimized and that her fight in Poland was not down-played in this children’s novel.