Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Survivors Club 5.03.17

Every Wednesday I join Alyson Beecher from kidlitfrenzy and other
kidlit bloggers to share wonderful nonfiction picture books.
The intention of today's blog post is to give professionals that work in the
education field new nonfiction reading material and ideas to use 
with students to promote a love of reading nonfiction materials.

I am taking a quick break from the picture book side to tell you about an upper middle grade/young adult nonfiction story that is an important book.

A book like Survivors Club is hard to summarize.  It's heavy.  It's heartbreaking.  But it's an important story to be told.

Survivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz
Survivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz
by Michael Bornstein and Debbie Bornstein Holinstat
published by Farrar Straus Giroux

Goodreads Summary:
In 1945, in a now-famous piece of archival footage, four-year-old Michael Bornstein was filmed by Soviet soldiers as he was carried out of Auschwitz in his grandmother’s arms. Survivors Club tells the unforgettable story of how a father’s courageous wit, a mother’s fierce love, and one perfectly timed illness saved Michael’s life, and how others in his family from Zarki, Poland, dodged death at the hands of the Nazis time and again with incredible deftness. Working from his own recollections as well as extensive interviews with relatives and survivors who knew the family, Michael relates his inspirational story with the help of his daughter, Debbie Bornstein Holinstat. Shocking, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting, this narrative nonfiction offers an indelible depiction of what happened to one Polish village in the wake of the German invasion in 1939.

The narrative format made this a very easy read for me.  I was happy to see in the source notes, the authors gave a lot of credit to the people who helped tell their stories so the telling of the story could be pieced together.

Growing up, I learned about World War II, the Holocaust, concentration camps from a textbook and teacher lectures.  I knew of the horrors, but certainly couldn't understand them.  I think most of my knowledge of hiding came from the bits and pieces I read or movies I saw about Anne Frank.  I never understood the Jewish persecution that occurred in Poland until years ago when I started reading about them in historical fiction books.

What scares me is knowing, or actually not knowing, about the horrors that are happening now, overseas.  In this age of knowledge, I'm sure we don't even know everything.  I read a books detailing what has happened in the past and think surely this isn't happening now, but it is.

Books like Survivors Club are important because they take us out of the bubble we live in.  It's so hard to read about the horrors these people encountered daily - some for years, some for a shorter amount of time because they didn't live longer.  To be honest with yourself knowing something like this is happening.  

This book is difficult to read, imagine, comprehend.  While the author was a young child and no doubt this book may have been different if written by an older teen or young adult, it is still hard to read and comprehend.  But it's books like this that are needed for students to read as they are learning part of history.  They will be the ones writing history in the decades to come.  I hope having books like this can help change the course of our world.


  1. I appreciate (even while shuddering) your thoughts at the resonances this book may have in today's world. Going onto my TBR list.

  2. I got this one at NCTE, but I haven't gotten to it yet :( I really need to.

  3. Thanks for sharing this book. I am always hopeful as a bookseller when I see kids who read a lot and read a varied selection because I think it'll just make them better people.

  4. Thanks for sharing, Michele. I will check this one out. We cannot forget the horrors of the past, and we don't want to repeat them!