Polish Catholic Irena Sendler and her friends were determined to protect their Jewish neighbors and acquaintances from the unbearable and unsafe conditions the Nazi invaders were creating. Allowed into the overcrowded, disease-ridden Warsaw Ghetto as medical workers, Irena and her co-conspirators smuggled in food and medicine. But the situation worsened rapidly, and there was no resolution in sight. Irena and her network of helpers began to smuggle children, many of them infants, out of the ghetto. This graphic novel’s muted tones beautifully portrays the bravery and danger that saved the lives of 2,500 Warsaw Ghetto children, who were often hidden with Christian families or in orphanages and monasteries. Zegota, the Polish underground resistance, participated in these efforts. Irena kept records of the children’s real names and families, hoping that they might be reunited after the war.
This engrossing story and its evocative art depict the exploits of one courageous young woman and the many others who risked everything to save children’s lives. It is an excellent way to teach kids about steadfast behavior during frightening and dangerous times. Given that the story is told realistically, there are a few disturbing images that adults should be prepared to discuss with young readers.
Award-winning journalist and freelance writer, Helen Weiss Pincus, has taught memoir writing and creative writing throughout the NY Metro area to senior citizens and high school students. Her work has been published in The New York Times, The Record, The Jewish Standard, and other publications. She recently added “Bubby” to her job description.