Scholastic Press, March 2013
Prisoner B-3087 is a novel, based on the true story of Jack Gruener’s formative years in concentration camps. Anyone vaguely familiar with the Holocaust will find it remarkably difficult to determine where Mr. Gratz took liberties. At a blush, this may seem like a heavy topic for the intended audience of younger students (Middle and Jr. High); however, in its simplicity, I believe that the story is perfectly presented.
The horror unfolds through the eyes of Yanek (later to be known as Jack Gruener). He is only 10 years old when Hitler’s armies began to invade Europe. As he listens to the adults “talk politics”, he can’t possibly conceive of how his world will change over the next 6 years.
Because Yanek is such a kind-hearted and optimistic boy, his matter-of-fact delivery allows the reader to experience his own emotions. The simple and basic presentation of the deplorable treatment of Jews is no less than heart-wrenching—for the reader. It is impossible to ignore the young boy’s strength and resolution as he first deals with years of being held prisoner in his own town, to finding the perfect hiding place for his family as mass exodus occurs—who but a young boy would see an abandoned pigeon coop as a home? As he loses family and friends while being shuffled from camp to camp, he relies on inner strength to survive.
I hope that this book becomes wildly popular. Based on my (very limited) time in the school systems, I believe our kids need a true hero. It seems that so many of us have become wrapped up in our own little cocoons that we allow inconveniences to become tragedies. I certainly relished the jolt back to reality—where people truly know suffering and pain. The fresh perspective was welcome. I will definitely be donating copies of this book to school and public libraries, with the hope that someone else will open his eyes as well.
Reviewed by jv poore, November 2012.