cover image Irena’s Jars of Secrets

Irena’s Jars of Secrets

Marcia Vaughan, illus. by Ron Mazellan. Lee & Low, $18.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-60060-439-3

Irena Sendler (1910–2008) was a Polish Catholic social worker who, as a member of the Polish underground organization Zegota, smuggled some 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw ghetto and arranged for them to live out the war with new identities in orphanages, convents, and foster homes. Hoping to reunite the families after the war, she kept lists of the children’s original identities, which she buried in jars under an apple tree. “As more children were rescued, Irena dug up the jars, added their names to the lists, and buried the jars again,” writes Vaughan (Up the Learning Tree). Sendler was ingenious, ushering her young charges to safety by hiding them in “baskets, boxes, tool chests, sacks, and suitcases” and even under the floorboards of an ambulance. And she was fearless, refusing even under torture and the threat of death to reveal the children’s whereabouts. Vaughan and Mazellan (You Can Be a Friend) have created a fine piece of historical storytelling, with brisk, reportorial prose and shadowy, impressionistic oil paintings that offer gripping testimony to the full horror and high stakes of the times. Ages 6–11. (Oct.)