A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Along with Elie Wiesel's Night, this is one of the few books about the Holocaust that views it through the eyes of a teenager. Reader's are drawn inside what has become normal daily life for Dita -- standing for hours in freezing cold to be inspected by the guards, dead bodies carried away from her barracks like so much trash, hunger that never goes away, the senseless brutality of the guards. Inside the novel's front and back covers are aerial photographs of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp taken in August and September 1944 that show the locations of the gas chambers, prisoner barracks, guard towers, and crematorium. So readers can put a face to the librarian of Block 31, a photo of a teenage Dita Kraus (wearing a sweater with a yellow star) is included in her letter to readers at the beginning of the book.
In the most violent and terrifying times, there will be people of all ages who show great courage and compassion and are willing to sacrifice themselves for others.
Positive Role Models
Filled with acts of kindness, generosity, and bravery from characters living in circumstances that could easily have led them to make choices that would benefit only themselves. Parents give up their own incredibly meager rations (a crust of bread as dinner) so their children will have even a tiny bit of extra food. Although it's forbidden, prisoners organize and teach at a secret school for the children. Small gifts are given: a precious piece of soap and a celery stick. Dita and her friends encourage and support one another -- something that sounds so simple but demands an incredible amount of emotional strength. At only 14, Dita could easily have declared herself too young to be the librarian, but she fearlessly took on the responsibility.
Violence & Scariness
Death, the threat of death, and unimaginable cruelty are a constant presence. Some things (how people died in the gas chamber, how their bodies were removed, a hanging) are graphically described. Beatings, executions, and deaths by disease or starvation happen daily. Auschwitz's "Doctor Death," Joseph Mengele, is a character in the novel, and although few of his experiments on adults and children are written about in detail, even references to them (doing live autopsies, injecting typhus into children, cutting open pregnant women with no anesthetic) may be extremely disturbing to some readers.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
It's mentioned that some women prisoners will trade sex for extra food for themselves or their children. One woman is groped and fondled by a guard.
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Used only once or twice: "f--k," "damn," "hell" and "bitch."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Cigarettes are so prized that they are used as currency in Auschwitz. Several characters smoke forbidden cigarettes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Librarian of Auschwitz is a novel based on the real-life experiences of Czech teen Dita Kraus, who was a prisoner at the Auschwitz concentration camp. At age 14, Dita was entrusted with one of the most dangerous clandestine jobs in the camp. She was chosen to protect the precious and forbidden eight books that prisoners had smuggled into Auschwitz. Books that would be used in the secret school created by prisoners for the children of Block 31. The novel moves from Dita and her family's privileged life in Prague to Auschwitz and then to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The violence is sometimes graphic (how people died in the gas chamber, how their bodies were removed, a hanging, mentions of the medical experiments of Dr. Mengele) and the threat of it is ever present as people are beaten, starve to death, and get taken off to the gas chambers. In preparation for writing the novel, author Antonio Iturbe met with and interviewed Dita Kraus, who survived the camps and now lives in Israel.
Is It Any Good?
This is a haunting, heartbreaking, and unforgettable Holocaust story -- a powerful testament to the courage of a teen girl who risked her life to preserve eight forbidden books. Even teens who don't love reading or share Dita's passion for books are sure to be caught up in a gripping storyline that features secret meetings, a possible traitor, daring escapes, and even romance.
Fact and fiction are blended so seamlessly in The Librarian of Auschwitz that some readers may have difficulty recognizing which characters are real and which are fictional. To make sure readers can identify the real-life characters in the novel, there's a "What Happened To …" section at the back of the book. It reveals the fate of both Nazis (Dr. Mengele, Adolf Eichmann, and camp Kommandant Rudolf Hoss) and prisoners (Dita's best friend, Margit Barnai, and Resistance leader David Schmulewski). A postscript discusses the controversy surrounding the mysterious death of Fredy Hirsch. Whether teens have read widely about the Holocaust or are just beginning to learn about this period in history, the story of Dita Kraus is a must read.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.