The War within These Walls

The War within These Walls

5.0 1
by Laura Watkinson, Caryl Strzelecki, Aline Sax

It's World War II, and Misha's family, like the rest of the Jews living in Warsaw, has been moved by the Nazis into a single crowded ghetto. Conditions are appalling: every day more people die from disease, starvation, and deportations. Misha does his best to help his family survive, even crawling through the sewers to smuggle food. When conditions worsen,


It's World War II, and Misha's family, like the rest of the Jews living in Warsaw, has been moved by the Nazis into a single crowded ghetto. Conditions are appalling: every day more people die from disease, starvation, and deportations. Misha does his best to help his family survive, even crawling through the sewers to smuggle food. When conditions worsen, Misha joins a handful of other Jews who decide to make a final, desperate stand against the Nazis.

Heavily illustrated with sober blue-and-white drawings, this powerful novel dramatically captures the brutal reality of a tragic historical event.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 09/16/2013
This fictionalized account of Mordechai Anielewicz and the 1942 Warsaw ghetto uprising will appall and unnerve its readers. The nameless Jewish narrator, an older boy, meets Anielewicz at the very moment his fury has given way to fear. His mother lies dying and his sister has already disappeared. Most of Warsaw’s Jewish population has been sent to the camps, and Nazi soldiers have butchered a Jewish mother and infant before his eyes. Now a stranger appears. “We have weapons,” Anielewicz tells the boy urgently. “But we need more people.” The narrator joins the resistance fighters and tastes their single, fleeting victory, a momentary triumph prefigured in the narrator’s glimpse of a gaily colored parakeet one miserable day. Strzelecki’s monochrome drawings use rich blue-gray lines on cream pages to portray faces furrowed with pain, then builds to nightmarish conflagrations, battles, and corpses. Sometimes a single sentence appears on a blue-gray page, the better to emphasize it: “I had never felt so Jewish before,” the narrator says. Sax’s achievement is to have made every reader feel this with him. Originally published in Belgium. Ages 14–up. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
American Library Association (ALA), Mildred L. Batchelder Honor (2014)
United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY), Outstanding International Books
National Council for the Social Studies & Children's Book Council, Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
Association of Jewish Libraries, Sydney Taylor Book Award - Honor book
Jewish Book Council, National Jewish Book Award - Children's/YA Book category
Kirkus Reviews, Best Books of the Year
Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
Society of Illustrators, "The Original Art" annual exhibition (2013)
Publishers Weekly, Best Books of the Year - Teen
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review (2013)
School Library Journal, Starred Review (2013)
Society of Illustrators, "The Original Art" annual exhibition
2013 IndieFab Awards Honorable Mention in Young Adult Fiction
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books Blue Ribbon List

Christian Library Journal
“A powerful, fictionalized memoir.”
Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
There is power in brevity, starkness, and simplicity. This account of the Warsaw ghetto uprising is elevated by an unadorned story (translated fluidly by Laura Watkinson) and illustrations that straddle the line between graphic novel and illustrated book. Even the end papers of the book add to the message, lined with a design of gold-on-blue Stars of David. Misha and his family are sent to the Warsaw ghetto where his father holds on desperately to hope and Misha deals with the realities of feeding and protecting his family by sneaking out of the ghetto through the sewers. When the Germans fire blast the sewers, Misha gives up his smuggling, and his sister takes his place never to return. Eventually, the order for evacuation to Auschwitz is given, and Misha finds himself aligned with the freedom fighters led by twenty-three-year-old Mordechai Anielewicz, who held the powerful German army at bay for four weeks. This would be a natural successor, in a Holocaust curriculum, to Spiegelman's Maus. The presentation of the book, short passages interrupted by black pages (an excellent use of negative space), penciled drawings and harshly realistic descriptions, all lend to the claustrophobic feeling of actually living in the ghetto. The book includes some apocryphal stories of Nazis slamming Jewish babies against walls while their mothers watched and mothers killing children to prevent them from being taken by the Nazis. Most of all, this will answer the eternal student question of why didn't the Jews fight back. The prose in this book beautifully represents both the hopelessness of imprisonment in the ghetto, and the last stand by Jewish warriors who chose an honorable death while fighting back to being led as lambs to the slaughter. Recommended for World War II studies and comprehensive Holocaust collections. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross
School Library Journal
★ 10/01/2013
Gr 8 Up—Told from the point of view of a Jewish teen, this short, illustrated novel begins with the invasion of Poland in 1939 and goes on to describe the limits placed on the Jewish population and their eventual incarceration in the Warsaw Ghetto. The narrator describes the daily humiliations, depravations, despair, and deaths at the hands of the Nazis. When his family runs out of food, the narrator descends into the sewer system to cross to the Polish side of the Ghetto walls, where he is able to buy or steal food. When the Nazis employ flame throwers to kill those in the sewers, he loses his nerve. Unfortunately, he isn't able to stop his younger sister from traveling the sewers, and one day she doesn't return. When it becomes clear that everyone in the Ghetto is going to be resettled in the East, the narrator is ready, when approached by Mordechai Anielewicz, one of the actual leaders of the uprising, to join the resistance. The last portion of the book describes the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising from the narrator's point of view. The pen, ink, and pencil artwork serves to extend and clarify the story. The combination of the illustrations and the author's spare prose make this a good choice for reluctant readers and an outstanding example of Holocaust fiction.—Nancy Silverrod, San Francisco Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-09-01
The sights, sounds and smells of the Warsaw ghetto assail readers' senses in a raw, brutal telling of the unimaginable horror of that time and that place. When the Nazis took Warsaw in 1939, they immediately initiated their separate war against the Jews in an ever-worsening web of destruction. Jews were prevented from using public transportation, doing business or attending schools. Then thousands were moved to the overcrowded ghetto, where they died of epidemics and starvation. Finally, relocations to the concentration camps emptied the ghetto. Sax gives voice to the fear and anger, hopelessness and terror through Misha, a fictional young teen who represents those who really lived and died there. In short staccato sentences, he bears witness to the madness, telling it all, from the struggle to stay alive to the corpses in the streets to the beatings and executions. Misha takes part in the doomed Warsaw Uprising and survives to tell the world of this last act of defiance. Strzelecki's pen, ink and black-and-white pencil illustrations graphically depict pain and despair as they accompany text printed on stark white or black backgrounds. With the events of the Holocaust growing ever more remote with the passage of time, Sax gives modern readers an unrelenting, heart-rending insight into the hell that the Nazis created. Gripping, powerful, shattering. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

Product Details

Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.70(d)
HL510L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Aline Sax is a Flemish author and translator. She haswritten a number of historical novels published in theNetherlands.

Caryl Strzelecki is a Belgian illustrator. He has provided artfor several children's books as well as numerousnewspapers and magazines.

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The War within These Walls 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Heidi_G More than 1 year ago
According to the book's historical note, the protagonist Misha is based on the stories of numerous Jews who were persecuted during the Nazi occupation of Warsaw.  So many interesting things about the book:  the size, the sparseness of words on the pages, the contrast of black and white pages, the illustrations conveying the hopelessness of the residents of the city.  Yet amongst the despair is hope.  An excellent fiction source for Holocaust studies.