His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg: Courage, Rescue, and Mystery During World War II

Louise Borden. Houghton Mifflin, $18.99 (144p) ISBN 978-0-618-50755-9
Borden (The Journey That Saved Curious George) gives readers a powerful directive at the outset of her biography-in-verse of humanitarian Raoul Wallenberg: “Look closely/ at this faded school picture from Sweden./ Find the student whose number is 19... Now you,/ and others,/ can become the storytellers/ of this boy’s remarkable life.” The subsequent myriad details about Wallenberg’s privileged upbringing in his native Sweden and abroad might not be as compelling, but the book’s urgency and momentum pick up as WWII gets underway. The reason for Wallenberg’s remarkableness becomes clear halfway through the book: his plan to save thousands of Hungarian Jews trapped in Budapest using Swedish protection documents and safe houses was both daring and effective. Complemented by photographs, maps, and other documents, the narrative is neither rhythmic nor rhyming; though the layout divides lengthy passages into less daunting chunks, it’s unclear that Wallenberg’s story, while fascinating, benefits in any significant way from being told in verse. Wallenberg’s mysterious fate in the hands of Russian captors adds another dimension to a life full of ingenuity, compassion, and bravery. Ages 12–up. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/12/2011
Release date: 01/01/2012
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