Sunday, January 19, 2014

tara recommends The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson

Nonfiction often gets a bad rap.  "True stories" are often deemed boring or unreadable and are put aside for fiction that is easier to digest.  In reality, the true stories are the most important ones as we come to appreciate where we came from and have a better understanding of the world around us.  Luckily, there have been some fantastic non-fiction books for younger readers in the past few years.  Bomb, Amelia LostStronger Than Steeland Nic Bishop Snakes are a few that have topped my list.  For even more nonfiction standouts, check out this list.

The Boy on the Wooden Box:  How the impossible became possible . . . on Schindler's list is the memoir of a young boy caught in the horrors of the Holocaust.  His story begins as a 9-year-old boy who lived a happy, relatively carefree life surrounded by family.  As the Germans invade Poland, this existence slowing changed as he started to see the "limitless inhumanity and evil of this new enemy."  Persecutions intrude on his life and his childhood slowly crumbles as he is forced into concentration camps and all basic comforts are stripped away.  He is ripped away from his family and struggles to survive through intuition, perseverance and pure luck as he holds on to the hope "if this is the worst that happens."  Unfortunately, that small hope is shattered as each time something much worse happens.

Leon Leyson (with Marilyn J. Harran and Elisabeth B. Leyson) tells a story of heartbreak, struggle and loss at the hands of the Nazis, but ultimately gratitude to the man who saved him.  Because of the kindness of Oskar Schindler, a Nazi who "looked [him] in the eye, not with the blank, unseeing stare of the Nazis, but with genuine interest and even a glint of humor," a man who would risk his own life to save nearly 1,200 Jews, Leon survived.

After the war, Leon started a new life and put his terrifying past behind him.  He married, started a family, began a teaching career, and rarely talked about his past.  He "did not live [his] life in the shadow of the Holocaust."  In fact, he until the movie, Schindler's List, came out, few people even knew about his past.  When he decided to talk about it, "Friends, students and teachers asked [him] why he had never told them about what [he] had experienced during the war."  They never realized what he had been through.  Once he was ready to come forward with his story, he shared his experiences for the rest of his life, speaking throughout the United States and Canada.

This memoir of a Jewish boy in Nazi Poland is not only compelling, without being graphic, but is also a stirring remembrance of a history that should never be repeated.  There are many books that tell a similar story of the needless horrors inflicted during this time, but I would highly suggest adding this one to your library as a memoir that even young readers can appreciate.

Copy received from publisher for review.

The Boy on the Wooden Box:  How the impossible became possible . . . on Schindler's list
A Memoir by Leon Leyson with Marilyn J Harran & Elisabeth B. Leyson
published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
August 2013
Recommended for ages 9-15

1 comment:

  1. I am excited to read this one when my name comes up at the library. I'm also excited to have another non-fiction in my pocket when that topic comes up for book reports.