In August of nineteen thirty-nine, Lonek is an eleven year-old Polish Jew living in Jaraslaw, Poland with his Mom, Dad, three year-old brother, and sixteen year-old farm girl who is their baby-sitter, helper and Lonek's playmate. Lonek comes home following an after-school soccer game and finds his father in a soldier's uniform. The German army led by Hitlerthought to be the strongest army in the worldis about to invade Poland. Lonek's father explains he must fight for his country and that Lonek must promise to stay behind and help his mother. The happy days of Jaraslaw are over. Lonek heads out on a journey that makes him a fugitive, a captive slave, an orphan, and finally, a welcomed Jewish child in Palestine. Children and adults will see the war through Lonek's eyes in this nonfiction account. This book includes useful maps, photos, glossary and a Q and A section. It also has an afterward that wraps up the loose ends most readers are curious about at the end of the story. It would be a great book to read to any group of children to help them better understand wartime love, hatred, survival, courage, and compassion. Teachers and librarians could use this book for discussion or as a catalyst for future reading and exploration of the historical period. 2005, Star Bright Books, Ages 8 to 12.
Charlotte M. Krall
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-When Lonek was 11, his family tried to evade capture by the Nazis by going into hiding, first to a hole dug under a remote barn and then to a Russian-occupied city where they hoped to blend in with its citizens. Fatefully, they were discovered and deported to Siberia, barely surviving weeks on a crowded freight train. Lonek became the resourceful one at the cold and stark gulag, finding ways to supplement the family's food supply with fish and berries. When the prisoners were freed and told to find their own way home, his family settled in a Russian city, but were so poor that his mother left him on the doorstep of an orphanage. Through diplomatic efforts, the orphans were sent to Palestine where they were welcomed and provided with caregivers and education. An afterword tells briefly about Lonek's adult life, his parents' remarkable survival, and their reunion with their son 10 years later. Historical facts are added in small doses as they relate to the protagonist's situation, and offer insight to the plight of Jewish refugees. The story is written from Lonek's point of view and filled with the wide-eyed wonder of each new circumstance and the optimism of a child, although captioned photographs and a glossary remind readers how lucky he was to have survived.-Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Eleven-year-old Lonek's experiences as a Jewish child in the early years of WWII are almost unbelievably horrible: Forced to flee Poland in 1939 after the German invasion, he and his family are transported to a Siberian gulag, where they remain for a year, barely surviving unspeakable conditions. Upon their release, Lonek's anguished mother brings him to an orphanage because that seems his only chance to live. What follows is the boy's harrowing, solo two-year journey that takes him to other parts of the Soviet Union, then to Iran, India, around the Middle East and, finally, to safety in Palestine in 1942. Readers will marvel at how anyone, let alone a child, could endure all this and will cheer as Lonek reaches freedom at last. However, the recounting of his tribulations and ultimate triumph deserves a much better treatment than is given here. Lonek's story should be more involving and engrossing, but Whiteman's writing is pedestrian and repetitive, especially given that she has already written this story for adults. Photos and follow-up postwar data on Lonek and his family are included. (Nonfiction. 10-12)