CYBILS REVIEW: Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz


Survive. At any cost.

10 concentration camps.

10 different places where you are starved, tortured, and worked mercilessly.

It's something no one could imagine surviving.

But it is what Yanek Gruener has to face.

As a Jewish boy in 1930s Poland, Yanek is at the mercy of the Nazis who have taken over. Everything he has, and everyone he loves, have been snatched brutally from him. And then Yanek himself is taken prisoner -- his arm tattooed with the words PRISONER B-3087.

He is forced from one nightmarish concentration camp to another, as World War II rages all around him. He encounters evil he could have never imagined, but also sees surprising glimpses of hope amid the horror. He just barely escapes death, only to confront it again seconds later.

Can Yanek make it through the terror without losing his hope, his will -- and, most of all, his sense of who he really is inside?

Based on an astonishing true story.


Oh, my goodness. I'm still trying to recover from reading this book.  I've read about the Holcaust before but somehow this book paints a picture of it like I've never experienced it before.  Not that there is any way that I could possibly understand everything that Yanek (Jack) went through.  I'm completely stunned that he survived at all.  I'm amazed at the incredible resiliency of the human spirit.  But this book shows not only the resiliency of the human spirit to survive but also the depths to which people can sink.  I will never understand how people could be so incredibly callus and cruel.  The way Yanek and the other prisoners were tortured and abused and murdered defies understanding. I also had not realized that so many were moved so many times.

Yanek Gruener lives in Krakow, Poland when the Germans invade in 1940.  After spending two years in the Krakow ghetto as conditions continually worsened, he is taken to his first camp.  There he meets the only member of his family yet living, his uncle Moshe.  Yet after his uncle is killed, Yanek is forced to find the will to survive within himself, with no help from anyone else.  This he manages to do despite facing forced labor, beatings, and being surrounded by violent death every day.  As he struggles to survive the most horrid conditions, he somehow he holds on to a smidgen of hope that someday the war will end.  But will it be to much? 

Strengths:  The plainness of the telling here makes this a powerfully emotional read.  Gatz has captured the spirit and strength of a young man who struggles to survive despite having lost everything.  The images created in the readers mind provide a vivid look at a horrible time in the world's history. A compellingly written story, all the more compelling because it's based on a real person and what happened to him.  I appreciated the author's note at the end explaining that this is based on someone's person experiences it has been fictionalized to provide a more complete picture of the Holocaust.

Weaknesses: This is definitely not a book for everyone.  Because of the material covered it is full of graphic violence and brutal behavior. I would recommend only for the most mature child readers.


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