A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Boy on the Wooden Box is a frank memoir by Leon Leyson, who grew up in Poland during the Holocaust and was one of the youngest people on Oskar Schindler's list of Jews he had work in his factory to save them from being sent to concentration camps. Leyson, who died just before this book was published, does not shy away from recounting the horrible things he experienced (severe beatings, near-starvation, the very real fear of death every day for six years) and witnessed, including seeing Jews shot in cold blood by German soldiers. He also reports atrocities he didn't witness but heard about, such as the mass murders of people in concentration camps. But he conveys the hope he held onto despite his hardships, as well. The fact that this story's told through the perspective of a survivor may make it easier for young readers to absorb the events.
What's the story?
Leon Leyson is like any other young boy in 1930s Poland -- he plays with his friends, attends both public school and Jewish school, and spends lots of time with his four brothers, sister, and parents. When Leon is 8, his family moves to Krakow and, as 1938 wears on, news of the Germans expelling Jews from their country reaches them. Within a year, Leon's no longer allowed to attend school, all Jewish people must wear Star of David armbands, and thousands of them are forced to leave Krakow. Leon's family members stay in the city and are moved to the ghetto, where the Nazis lock them inside every night. As the Nazis get more brutal and all human rights are taken away from Jewish people, the Leyson family has one piece of luck: Leon's father is hired to work in the factory of Oskar Schindler, and eventually so are his mother, brother, and Leon himself. Being so small, Leon must stand on a box to reach the machine he works.
Is it any good?
In simple, unembellished prose, Leon Leyson tells what it was like to be a young Jewish boy living in Nazi-occupied Poland. Although THE BOY ON THE WOODEN BOX is ostensibly about a child on the famous "Schlinder's list," it also offers a child's-eye view of history and shows what it was like for a kid to lose his childhood at the hand of the Nazis. The details of the small moments of happiness his family found in staying together through their terrible trials provide a contrast to the brutality of their experience and somehow make it all seem more real. It'll be easy for kids to empathize and imagine themselves in the same situation. This memoir, published shortly after Leyson's death, is an important work.
Talk to your kids about ...
Have you seen the movie Schlinder's List? What's different about Oskar Schlinder's portrayal in The Boy on the Wooden Box? What's the same?
How is a memoir different from a novel? How is it similar? What other memoirs have you read?
- Authors: Leon Leyson, Leon Leyson, Marilyn J. Harran
- Genre: Autobiography
- Topics: History
- Book type: Non-Fiction
- Publisher: Atheneum
- Publication date: September 4, 2013
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 17
- Number of pages: 240
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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