Prisoner B-3087

Alan Gratz. Scholastic Press, $16.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-545-45901-3
The Nazis killed more than one million Jewish children and teenagers; Jack (Yanek) Gruener, who was 10 when Krakow, Poland, fell, was a rare survivor. “Survive,” however, hardly seems adequate to describe what unfolds in these pages. Having lost his parents and close relatives just as he entered adolescence (Yanek has a secret bar mitzvah in a basement of the Krakow ghetto), the boy is totally alone as his life becomes a roll-call of nightmares: Trzebinia, Bir-kenau (where his arm is tattooed with the number in the book’s title), Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Gross-Rosen. Yanek is finally liberated at age 16, when American soldiers arrive at Dachau. Gratz (Fantasy Baseball) has fictionalized some aspects of Gruener’s life to “paint a fuller and more representative picture of the Holocaust as a whole,” and this determination to be exhaustively inclusive, along with lapses into History Channel–like prose, threatens to overwhelm the story. But more often, Gratz ably conveys Yanek’s incredulity (“Not long ago, all these half-dead creatures around me had been people”), fatalism, yearning, and determination in the face of the unimaginable. Ages 10–14. Agent: Barry Goldblatt, Barry Goldblatt Literary. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/11/2013
Release date: 03/01/2013
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