Wednesday, August 1, 2012

{Review} Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project by Jack Mayer

ISBN #: 978-0984111312
Page Count: 396
Copyright: March 28, 2011
Publisher: Long Trail Press

Book Summary:
(Taken from Goodreads)

During World War II, Irena Sendler, a Polish Catholic social worker, organized a rescue network of fellow social workers to save 2,500 Jewish children from certain death in the Warsaw ghetto. Incredibly, after the war her heroism, like that of many others, was suppressed by communist Poland and remained virtually unknown for 60 years. Unknown, that is, until three high school girls from an economically depressed, rural school district in southeast Kansas stumbled upon a tantalizing reference to Sendler's rescues, which they fashioned into a history project, a play they called Life in a Jar. Their innocent drama was first seen in Kansas, then the Midwest, then New York, Los Angeles, Montreal, and finally Poland, where they elevated Irena Sendler to a national hero, championing her legacy of tolerance and respect for all people.

Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project is a Holocaust history and more. It is the inspirational story of Protestant students from Kansas, each carrying her own painful burden, each called in her own complex way to the history of a Catholic woman who knocked on Jewish doors in the Warsaw ghetto and, in Sendler's own words, "tried to talk the mothers out of their children."

Inspired by Irena Sendler, they are living examples of the power of one person to change the world and models for young people everywhere.

*****60% of the sales of this book are donated to the Irena Sendler/Life in a Jar Foundation. The foundation promotes Irena Sendler's legacy and encourages educators and students to emulate the project by focusing on unsung heroes in history to teach respect and understanding among all people, regardless of race, religion, or creed.

Kathy's Review:

I read this book in about a day's time. All day, Saturday, I pored through page after page, unable to put down this engrossing tale of a courageous woman who strived to save the lives of innocents during a tumultuous time in her nation's history. Surely we have all heard of the atrocities of the Holocaust, but this is the first time I had read anything about Poland. I feel stupid for saying that, but I think most of what I learned in school centered on Germany.

Anyway, I enjoyed how the writing was interwoven between the high school girls who researched Irena's story for National History Day, and Irena herself. The chapters that retold Irena's story seemed as authentic as if they were straight from the woman's mouth herself. Irena survived and, in her 90's, was able to meet the girls in Poland and share some of her story with them. Photos of the meetings are captured in the book, drawing the reader in emotionally.

For a younger person like me, who was not alive during World War II and the Holocaust, it's inconceivable that something like this actually happened. People who are still alive today went through this as children, as young adults. I tried to put myself in Irena's shoes - would I have done the same, if I had the means? As a mother, I tried to imagine what it must have been like to know that I would have to choose to give my children away, to have a prayer of surviving, knowing that I was likely going to be killed. It is truly unimaginable, and yet for thousands and thousands of Jews in Poland, this was their reality.

I applaud the author, as well as the young women who brought this story to light, for sharing Irena with the rest of us. Proceeds from this book go to keeping this story alive, so I encourage all to read about this true heroine, Irena Sendler.

*A physical copy of the book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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