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The Champion of Children: The Story of Janusz Korczak Hardcover – September 1, 2009
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From School Library Journal
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“The endpapers offer a study in contrast, the first showing Warsaw before the war, full of red rooftops and tall trees, while the closing spread shows Warsaw after the war, awash with shadowy silvers and grays. An author's note describes how Boagacki, himself Polish-born, grew up hearing the stories of Korczak.” ―Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“Inspiring is a rare word for a realistic Holocaust title, but it is true of this picture-book biography.” ―Booklist
“For anyone teaching about the Holocaust, this moving portrait of humanitarian Janusz Korczak is worth a look.” ―Instructor
“...this is a gorgeous, gently-told book that every Jewish kid should eventually read.” ―Tablet
“A passionate picture-book biography of the Holocaust-era children's advocate and doctor.” ―Kirkus Reviews
- Lexile Measure : 1030L
- Grade Level : Kindergarten - 2
- Item Weight : 15.2 ounces
- Hardcover : 40 pages
- ISBN-13 : 978-0374341367
- ISBN-10 : 0374341362
- Product Dimensions : 9.61 x 0.41 x 11.5 inches
- Publisher : Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); 1st Edition (September 1, 2009)
- Reading level : 6 - 10 years
- Language: : English
Best-sellers rank #1,563,502 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
#237 in Children's Holocaust Books
#277 in Children's Judaism Books (Books)
#1,217 in Children's Orphans & Foster Homes Books (Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Non-fiction books that focus on prominent individuals introduce the concept of a "biography" to younger readers. Tomek does a wonderful job of bringing Janusz's life into the spotlight by using a combination of pictures and words. It is one of many books that can be used to highlight the beginning, middle and end of a prominent person's life and the choices that they made. The ramifications of the Holocaust are addressed in the last half of the book. All of the information provided will be useful to any upper elementary child or middle schooler who is trying to gain an understanding of World War II and the Holocaust.
Learning that Janusz perished with his orphans instead of responding to multiple opportunities to escape, illustrates the full depth of Janusz dedication to the children who he cherished.
So, another book on Korczak for children? I already have several fine volumes, including those of Spielman, Adler, and Bernheim, along with a rare imprint from Israel. First, with so little about this great man published in English, anything of quality is welcome. Second, Korczak was a true champion of children, so children's books about the Old Doctor are particularly welcome. Of the three picture books on Korczak currently available, this one is my favorite.
Janusz Korczak was the pen name of Henryk Goldzmit, a sensitive boy born in Warsaw in 1878. A loner and a dreamer, from the time he was about 11 he empathized with the children in the street, most of whom were much poorer than he. When his father died, the young Korczak had to take on tutoring jobs to support his family; even then, he offered lessons for free to pupils who could not afford the fee. He went on to study pediatric medicine, but gave up a lucrative practice to found an orphanage. He incorporated his ideas, all of which were based on the respect for the child, who he considered a person here an not, not a person of tomorrow. With the Nazi invasion of Poland in the Second World War, Korczak and his staff were forced to relocate to the infamous Warsaw Ghetto. On several occasions, he was offered false papers to escape to the Aryan side. However, he refused each time, continuing to provide comfort for the many orphans in the city. Several writers have discribed his somber procession of nearly 200 orphans to the trains that would take him and his charges to Treblinka, never to be seen again.
Books and plays on Korczak fall into two categories: telling his entire life or focusing on his role in caring for children in the Ghetto. This book falls into the former category, providing the reader with an important context for Korczak's heroic deeds without making him appear a victim. Tomek Bogacki, himself born in Poland, tells of Janusz Korczak's life with great sensitivity, without sentimentality; his beautiful acrylic illustrations complement the text effectively, especially in his use of bright colors to illustrate the happy moments and dark, somber colors for the sad parts of the story. The text may be a little difficult to read for younger readers, but the book is suitable for read-aloud even for little ones - even in the darkest moments, there is hope. Which is exactly how Janusz Korczak, champion of the children, wanted it.
As Korczak grew older, his dreams of providing a better life for less privileged children was reinforced, especially when his own family became impoverished as a result of his father's death and Korczak had to become the main breadwinner. As he grew up, Korczak studied medicine, and went on to publish articles and books about caring and educating children. He eagerly accepted the position of director of an orphanage for Jewish children. The ideas that Korczak implemented in his orphanage were ahead of his time - care and love were emphasized, older children acted as mentors to younger children, and a democratic system was put into place in the orphanage.
Unfortunately, historical events put an end to Korczak's well-run orphanage. When the Nazis conquered Poland in 1939, things turned ugly for the Jews, and when the Jews were ordered to move into the Warsaw Ghetto, Korczak (who was Jewish) and his orphans were also compelled to move. The book portrays the resilience displayed by Korczak in those dark days - he continued to provide unwavering love and care for his beloved orphans, and tried his best to see to their needs, though starvation was rampant in the ghetto. Finally, in 1942, the dreaded Nazi order for deportation came - Korczak's orphans were asked to report for deportation to Treblinka, a notorious extermination center. Though he could have saved himself with the help of willing friends beyond the ghetto walls, Korczak refused and went along with his orphans to their doom. Korczak is an inspiration to child advocates everywhere - in life and in death, he continues to be a beacon of hope and inspiration to those who like Korczak, believe in the rights of a child to a decent quality of life.
The writing in this book is simple enough that young children should be able to follow it somewhat though I would recommend this for children ages 8 and up if only because the subject matter is rather heavy-going for a young child to comprehend. When I read this to my kindergartener, she was able to understand some parts, but the part about the ghettos and the transportation of the children was beyond her comprehension, and I found it hard to simplify it for her, choosing instead to focus on Korczak's love and care for his orphans.
For those who are interested in Korczak's life and work, here are some additional titles for further reading:
A Voice for the Child: The Inspirational Words of Janusz Korczak
King Matt the First
When I Am Little Again and The Child's Right to Respect