Bornstein, Michael and Holinstat, Debbie Bornstein. Survivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz
March 7th 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Michael Bornstein was born in 1940, just when things were starting to get bad for Jewish residents in Poland. His family saw horrible things happen in their town, and various family members reacted in different ways. An aunt and uncle left their daughter at a convent, hoping that she would escape notice there. Michael, his mother, father, brother, and grandmother ended up at a work camp where they were treated fairly well, but when it closed, they were sent to Auschwitz. There, Michael managed to survive through a combination of determination (his mother made him hide in the women’s barracks so she could watch out for him) and luck (he was in the infirmary when inmates were sent on a death march). His father and brother were killed, and his mother sent to work at another factory, so when the camps were liberated, he and his grandmother made their way back to their hometown, only to find their home occupied by someone else. They lived in an abandoned chicken coop even though some relatives managed to survive and make it back to their farm. Eventually, Michael’s mother returned, and took him to the United States.
This was a particularly helpful book for understanding the scope of what families went through. While every story is different, Bornstein’s contains a variety of elements that are common. It’s helpful to see what life was like for the family before and after the war. I particularly enjoyed reading about how all of this information came together through Bornstein’s research, and the story is told in an interesting way.
I always think I have enough books about World War II, but when a particularly good one comes along, it’s great to see. The best part of this was perhaps the sense of optimism that pervades the book. Yes, horrible things happened, but sometimes the key to surviving is to hope for the best.
This trailer is a good introduction to the book.
See more Middle Grade book reviews at Ms. Yingling Reads.