Readers Workshop Choices

Readers’ Workshop book choices:

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
ISBN-13: 978-0553296983

Anne Frank’s diaries have always been among the most moving and eloquent documents of the Holocaust. This new edition restores diary entries omitted from the original edition, revealing a new depth to Anne’s dreams, irritations, hardships, and passions. Anne emerges as more real, more human, and more vital than ever. If you’ve never read this remarkable autobiography, do so. If you have read it, you owe it to yourself to read it again. – from review


Surviving the Angel of Death by Eva Mozes Kor and Lisa Rojany Buccieri

ISBN-13: 978-1933718576

Grade 6 Up—Kor relates memories of life in the village of Portz, Transylvania (Romania), where she was raised on a large farm, “never aware of the anti-Semitism [that pervaded the country] until 1940, when the Hungarian army came.” Six-year-old Eva and her identical twin, Miriam, the only Jewish children in their small mixed-grade classroom, suddenly found themselves taunted and beaten by once-friendly classmates. At 10 years of age, the twins and their family were forced to live among seven thousand other Jews in a fenced-in field, protected from the elements only by tents made of their own blankets and sheets and by the clothes on their backs. They were soon taken on a four-day train ride to Auschwitz, standing all the way, with no food or drink. There the sisters were “selected” to be victims of Dr. Josef Mengele’s medical “research.” Eva’s amazing fortitude and her desire to protect her sister helped her to survive a horrible disease brought on by an injection. Both twins endured a terrifying daylong separation during a forced march between camps; the remaining Auschwitz prisoners were liberated by Soviet soldiers, and the girls found a way to go home in search of family survivors. Kor’s straightforward first-person narrative is unusual because it details life in the concentration camp through the eyes of a child who lived among children. In an eight-page epilogue, the author talks about her discovery, 50 years after liberation, of the importance of forgiveness (“a seed for peace”), and of what she has done to teach young people the positive lessons of life garnered from her horrific experiences.—Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH
for Booklist

Mengele twin searches for lost brother in 2014



A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

ISBN-13: 978-0547577319


*Starred Review* After 11-year-old Salva’s school in Sudan is attacked by brutal rebel soldiers in 1985, he describes several terrifying years on the run in visceral detail: “The rain, the mad current, the bullets, the crocodiles, the welter of arms and legs, the screams, the blood.” Finally, he makes it to refugee camps in Ethiopia and then Kenya, where he is one of 3,000 young men chosen to go to America. After he is adopted by a family in Rochester, New York, he is reunited with the Sudanese family that he left behind. There have been several books about the lost boys of Sudan for adults, teens, and even for elementary-school readers. But Newbery Award–winning Park’s spare, immediate account, based on a true story, adds a stirring contemporary dimension. In chapters that alternate with Salva’s story, Nya, a young Sudanese girl in 2008, talks about daily life, in which she walks eight hours to fetch water for her family. Then, a miracle happens: Salva returns home to help his people and builds a well, making fresh water available for the community and freeing Nya to go to school. The switching viewpoints may initially disorient some, but young readers will be stunned by the triumphant climax of the former refugee who makes a difference with the necessities that we all take for granted. Teachers may want to point out the allusion to Nelson Mandela’s A Long Walk to Freedom (1995) echoed in this moving book’s title. Grades 6-9. –Hazel Rochman

The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

ISBN-13: 978-0439680134

*Starred Review* In Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow, Booklist’s 2005 Top of the List for youth nonfiction, 2005, Bartoletti included a portrait of Helmuth Hübener, a German teenager executed for his resistance to the Nazis. In this fictionalized biography, she imagines his story as he sits in prison awaiting execution in 1942 and remembers his childhood in Hamburg during Hitler’s rise to power. Beaten and tortured to name his friends, he remembers how he started off an ardent Nazi follower and then began to question his patriotism, secretly listened to BBC radio broadcasts, and finally dared to write and distribute pamphlets calling for resistance. The teen’s perspective makes this a particularly gripping way to personalize the history, and even those unfamiliar with the background Bartoletti weaves in–the German bitterness after World War I, the burning of the books, the raging anti-Semitism––will be enthralled by the story of one boy’s heroic resistance in the worst of times. A lengthy author’s note distinguishes fact from fiction, and Bartoletti provides a detailed chronology, a bibliography, and many black-and-white photos of Helmuth with friends, family, and members of his Mormon church. This is an important title for the Holocaust curriculum. See the Booklist interview with Bartoletti, in which she discusses how this teen’s story moved her. Grades 6-12. –Hazel Rochman for Booklist

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

ISBN-13: 978-0399254123

*Starred Review* Sepetys’ first novel offers a harrowing and horrifying account of the forcible relocation of countless Lithuanians in the wake of the Russian invasion of their country in 1939. In the case of 16-year-old Lina, her mother, and her younger brother, this means deportation to a forced-labor camp in Siberia, where conditions are all too painfully similar to those of Nazi concentration camps. Lina’s great hope is that somehow her father, who has already been arrested by the Soviet secret police, might find and rescue them. A gifted artist, she begins secretly creating pictures that can–she hopes–be surreptitiously sent to him in his own prison camp. Whether or not this will be possible, it is her art that will be her salvation, helping her to retain her identity, her dignity, and her increasingly tenuous hold on hope for the future. Many others are not so fortunate. Sepetys, the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee, estimates that the Baltic States lost more than one-third of their populations during the Russian genocide. Though many continue to deny this happened, Sepetys’ beautifully written and deeply felt novel proves the reality is otherwise. Hers is an important book that deserves the widest possible readership. Grades 7-12. –Michael Cart for Booklist

The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson
ISBN-13: 978-1442497825

This powerful memoir of one of the youngest boys on Schindler’s list deserves to be shared. Leon Leyson grew up in Poland as the youngest of five children. As WWII breaks out, Leyson’s ingenuity and bravery, combined with the kindness of strangers and a bit of serendipity, save his life, time and again. The storytelling can at times meander, and the various reflections of his life in Poland during the war can result in a certain patchiness, but Leyson’s experiences and memories still make for compelling reading about what it was like to suffer through the Holocaust. This memoir is a natural curriculum addition to WWII units for upper-elementary- and middle-school readers. Be sure to have additional materials on hand about Oskar Schindler, as readers will want to do more research into Leyson’s story. Grades 4-7. –Sarah Bean Thompson for Booklist


(The below books are EXTRA CREDIT, or great second books (titles to read after you’ve finished your first choice book)

Making Bombs for Hitler by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

In this companion book to the award-winning Stolen Child, a young girl is forced into slave labor in a munitions factory in Nazi Germany.
In addition to her other tasks, Lida’s small hands make her the perfect candidate to handle delicate munitions work, so she is sent to a factory that makes bombs. The grueling work and conditions leave her severely malnourished and emotionally traumatized, but overriding all of this is her concern and determination to find out what happened to her vulnerable younger sister. – from Goodreads review

What World is Left by Monique Pollak

Anneke and her family are taken to Theresienstadt, the “model” Nazi concentration camp. At 14, she suffers backbreaking labor, foul conditions, and massive overcrowding. The terror of being sent away on a transport haunts her always. Based on the experiences of the author’s mother, this book is rich with friendship but riddled with loss.

Parallel Journeys by Eleanor Ayer

Through Ayer’s narrative and excerpts from Heck’s memoirs, A Child of Hitler and The Burden of Hitler’s Legacy, readers learn how Alfons changed from a loving, wholesome boy to a “Nazi devil” (even the Germans called the elite Hitler Youth by that name). It is frightening to see how easily young people can be swayed, and readers learn just how it happened. Alternating chapters reveal Helen Waterford’s story through excerpts from her book, Commitment to the Dead, and Ayer’s background material. Fleeing with her fiancee to Amsterdam after Kristallnacht, Helen was again caught in the Nazi noose and struggled to survive. As her plight grew more desperate, Alfons rose higher and higher in the Hitler Youth. Eventually, when he and his ragged corps faced annihilation by the Russians, he realized how Hitler had sacrificed his “children.” When Alfons and Helen met in the U.S. 40 years after the war, they found that they shared a common purpose: to help young people understand that peace and compassion are possible between individuals, and on a larger scale as well. Their first-person accounts are interwoven with Ayer’s words so seamlessly that readers are unaware of the intrusion of a third person. She is an excellent biographer, capturing nuances of her subjects’ characters and personality traits. A fascinating work.-Marcia W. Posner, Holocaust Memorial and Educational Center of Nassau County, Glen Cove, NY for Booklist

Anne Frank Remembered by Miep Gies

This memoir reveals the writer to be a woman of great courage, who determinedly pursued a course of action founded upon deep humanitarian convictions despite the great personal danger. Gies was the trusted employee to whom Otto Frank turned when his family was forced into hiding in their attempt to escape deportation and death. Teenagers who have read Anne Frank: the Diary of a Young Girl (Doubleday, 1967) will surely want to read about Gies’ adventures in secretly obtaining provisions for eight people for two years. The characterizations of the Frank family, particularly Anne, with whom Gies had a special friendship, are perceptive. Gies describes the day the Franks were captured, following their betrayal by persons still unknown. These vignettes and the description of what was happening in Amsterdam provide insight into how the Nazi occupation affected the lives of innocent people, and into the heroism of a remarkable woman, Miep Gies. –– Rita G. Keeler, St. John’s School, Houston for Booklist

Anne Frank, Beyond the Diary by Ruud Van der Rol
Grade 5 Up-Anyone who has been touched by Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl will be moved by this account that opens on the day Anne received the journal for her 13th birthday. The color photo of the diary set opposite the text lends immediacy and a sense of reality to the commentary. The feelings are reinforced throughout by the authors’ prodigious research and the accumulation of details through the photographs. Some of the pictures included have never been published before, and their lengthy captions describe not only who is in the photos, but also the circumstances under which they were taken. Framed pages expand on the political and economical situations of the time. The well-written main narrative, which uses aptly chosen quotations from the diary, takes readers from Anne’s normal, happy childhood through the years in the Secret Annex to the betrayal and Anne’s death from typhus in Bergen-Belsen just months before her 16th birthday and only weeks before the liberation of the camp. For readers the loss is double. One feels the personal loss of a bright, fun-loving, and talented individual who might have made a difference in the world and also remembers that many Anne Franks died during that nightmarish period. –Amy Kellman, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh for Booklist

Hitler Youth by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Starred Review. Grade 5-8–Hitler’s plans for the future of Germany relied significantly on its young people, and this excellent history shows how he attempted to carry out his mission with the establishment of the Hitler Youth, or Hitlerjugend, in 1926. With a focus on the years between 1933 and the end of the war in 1945, Bartoletti explains the roles that millions of boys and girls unwittingly played in the horrors of the Third Reich. The book is structured around 12 young individuals and their experiences, which clearly demonstrate how they were victims of leaders who took advantage of their innocence and enthusiasm for evil means. Their stories evolve from patriotic devotion to Hitler and zeal to join, to doubt, confusion, and disillusion. (An epilogue adds a powerful what-became-of-them relevance.) The large period photographs are a primary component and they include Nazi propaganda showing happy and healthy teens as well as the reality of concentration camps and young people with large guns. The final chapter superbly summarizes the weighty significance of this part of the 20th century and challenges young readers to prevent history from repeating itself. Bartoletti lets many of the subjects’ words, emotions, and deeds speak for themselves, bringing them together clearly to tell this story unlike anyone else has.–Andrew Medlar, Chicago Public Library, IL for Booklist

They Called Themselves the KKK by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Gr 7-10–This richly documented, historically contextualized account traces the origin and evolution of the Ku Klux Klan from a small mischievous social club into a powerful, destructive organization. With compelling clarity, anecdotal detail, and insight, Bartoletti presents the complex era of Reconstruction, 1865-1877, that gave rise to the KKK. After the Civil War, the defeated South was a simmering cauldron of political, economic, and social instability. As the federal government struggled to provide law and order and to protect the rights of freed slaves, secret groups of Southern whites banded together to vent their anger over lost property, prosperity, and power. From six men in a law office in Pulaski, TN, KKK dens spread across the South targeting freed blacks and their supporters. Although the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 was meant to end violence, KKK activity persisted through the 20th century, diminishing in the last 30 years as civil rights became a reality for all Americans. Bartoletti includes excerpts from slave narratives, archival illustrations, and historical quotes to convey the human drama of KKK terrorism. An annotated bibliography and source notes illuminate the variety and significance of reference works. Additional secondary titles include Chester L. Quarles’s scholarly The Ku Klux Klan and Related American Racialist and Antisemitic Organizations (McFarland, 2008). Bartoletti effectively targets teens with her engaging and informative account that presents a well-structured inside look at the KKK, societal forces that spawn hate/terrorist groups, and the research process.Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC for Booklist