Irena’s Jars of Secrets by Marcia Vaughan, Illus. by Ron Mazellan (Lee & Low Books, 2011, 40pp.)
The picture book biography of Irena Sendler, a young social worker who joined the underground effort to smuggle Jews out of Poland’s Warsaw ghetto after learning that the Nazis were sending families to the Treblinka extermination camp. As a member of the secret organization Zegota, Irena found homes for Jewish children in Christian homes and gave them new identities. Prompted by parents’ concerns about being reunited with their children, she wrote each child’s real name and “new” name on paper and stored them in jars that she buried in a friend’s back yard. There are some moments that may be unsettling for younger children, specifically when a Nazi guard threatens to shoot a barking dog, and it’s mentioned that Irena was imprisoned, beaten, and tortured by the Gestapo before narrowly escaping a firing squad in 1943. Mazellan’s oil paintings, especially his dark-toned ghetto scenes, nicely compliment this otherwise child-friendly account of bravery during the Holocaust. Contains a glossary and pronunciation guide, and a list of author’s sources. Recommended for Ages 6-8.
Click on cover for image source.