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What World is Left

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I scratch the skin around my shoulder. I know I mustn't, but I can't help it. I am itchy everywhere. I fight the urge to jump out of the bunk. Besides, there is no place to go. We are prisoners here. If only this was the dream and I could wake up and return to my old life.

The unthinkable has happened. Anneke and her family have been taken by train from their comfortable home in Holland to Theresienstadt, a "model" concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. But there is nothing model...

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What World is Left

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I scratch the skin around my shoulder. I know I mustn't, but I can't help it. I am itchy everywhere. I fight the urge to jump out of the bunk. Besides, there is no place to go. We are prisoners here. If only this was the dream and I could wake up and return to my old life.

The unthinkable has happened. Anneke and her family have been taken by train from their comfortable home in Holland to Theresienstadt, a "model" concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. But there is nothing model about bed bugs, starvation, disease, lice, hard labor and constant brutality. Despite the hunger, the anxiety and the pain, Anneke learns that she is capable of doing whatever it takes to survive. She also discovers that even the grayest of days can be brightened by a friend's smile or a lover's kiss.

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Editorial Reviews

The Jewish Independant
"A very personal, thought-provoking and, ultimately, hopeful book."
What If? Magazine
"Intriguing and quite unique...The reader will undoubtedly find much to think about. I would recommend What World is Left to anyone interested in this often-overlooked piece of history."
The Rover
"Takes the reader to the heart of the horror by creating a character whose vivid confusion, disbelief, and innocence are immediate and powerful."
Tri State Young Adult Book Review Committee
"The descriptive narrative is cohesive, well-constructed, and compelling and provides a different view of what a man deemed necessary to survive.
Montreal Review of Books
"Polak's story breathes life into a period fading from memory."
CM Magazine
"Through Anneke's eyes, author Monique Polak presents an astonishing and depressing event."
[Starred review] "Heartbreaking. An important addition to the Holocaust curriculum."
The Chronicle Herald
"A powerful story of growing up in unspeakable conditions, of human suffering, loss and, ultimately, hope."
The Montreal Gazette
"The pressure and urgency of inspiration, not to mention tears and blood, is palpable everywhere."
Resource Links
"This book certainly holds its own in the canon of Holocaust-based fiction for the young adult audience...Polak balances this [dark reality] with uplifting moments of friendship, family tenderness and even romance."
"An excellent novel—a great tale of overcoming adversity in a time of such dark despair."
Tucson Unified School District
Library Media Connection
"This well-written, painful story is a good addition to the genre of Holocaust fiction… Recommended."
YALSA YA Galley Teen Review
"This book is well-written, the characters are developed so well you can relate to them, the setting is described such that you can picture it in your mind, and the action and suspense make you keep turning the pages."
Canadian Children's Book News
"Full of hope...This volume makes for great reading and an excellent resource for a school library."
Jewish Book World
*no details*
Manitoba Middle Years Association
*no details*
Southwestern Ohio Young Adult Materials Review Group
*no details*
"All Points West," CBC Radio One - Nikki Tate
"The underlying truth of what happened and how her family survived is really what makes this utterly compelling fiction…I am so grateful to [Monique and other authors like her] who tackle these really difficult stories and write unflinching books for teenagers."
Publishers Weekly

Anneke Van Raalte is 14 when the Germans deport her family from Holland and send them to Czechoslovakia-because they are Jewish. Despite constant hunger, severe crowding and other deprivations, Anneke, the narrator, is repeatedly told how lucky she is to be at the concentration camp Theresienstadt, which lacks gas chambers. Her father, formerly an illustrator for a Dutch newspaper, occupies an important position in the camp and can protect the family from the worst fate, being sent on a transport "east" (she eventually learns a transport almost invariably means death). But Anneke wonders at the justness of her father's behavior, particularly when he participates in the commandant's "embellishment" program, designed to trick the Danish Red Cross when it comes for an inspection-and, when that plan succeeds, to make a propaganda film. Polak (Scarred) bases Anneke's experiences on those of her mother's; while convincing generally, her writing shies from the extremities of camp existence. What it does offer is a candid look at a father's presumed collusion, a perspective rarely seen in YA literature about the Holocaust. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Ali Fell
1943. Anneke is 14 when she and her family are deported from Holland to Theresienstadt, which is a "model" Nazi concentration camp located in Czechoslovakia. The Nazis display the camp to foreign visitors and use slave labor to produce propagandist art. Some of these courageous artists sneak realistic impressions of camp life out of the camp so that others can see what is happening. Behind the murals, new trees and forced smiles is misery. Meager food. Bed bugs, lice, fleas. Horrible smells. Disease. Unpredictable deportations to death camps and unpredictable cruelty. The reader is allowed to observe Anneke during the two formative adolescent years she spends in Theresienstadt. Anneke is transformed from being a loving, outgoing young person. She learns to isolate herself from potential friends because friends die, she is unable to appreciate beauty, and she no longer consistently cares about the pain of others. This new book will, hopefully, be included on any list of the most informative and well-written books for young people about life in a concentration camp. A great number of details, skipped over in many books, are given about riding on a deportation train and about living in Theresienstadt. The story is based on the life of the author's mother, but the internal life of Anneke, which is relayed with great insight, is fiction. Not for teens only. This is a valuable read for both teens and adults. There are some vague references to sexual scenes and much physical and psychological violence, so maturity level rather than age should probably be the guide to buying the book for young teens. Prepare to become emotionally involved, totally engaged, and even haunted. What World IsLeft is somewhat like The Diary of Anne Frank multiplied by 5. Reviewer: Ali Fell
School Library Journal

Gr 5-8

Forced to leave their privileged life in Holland, Anneke and her family are transported to the "model city" of Theresienstadt. Her father is a well-known painter/artist and is ordered to create much of the artwork for the pleasure of the Nazi officers in charge of this "unique" concentration camp. Anneke's forced labor in the kitchen is less brutal and harsh than some of the other assigned duties, and this once-spoiled 14-year-old learns that survival motivates any kind of work and conditions. But when her father begins to create a false series of signage and backdrop scenes to use as part of Hitler's documentary on the camp to falsely represent the "good" treatment and conditions of the Jews imprisoned there, Anneke has difficulty understanding his rationale. Her father's continual mantra is "the important thing is that we are together." As she watches the weekly transport orders of her companions to what she understands are the death camps, Anneke learns that sometimes placing one's ethics and values aside may be the only way to survive. Yet, once she discovers the artists' depictions of the camp's truly barbaric status, she develops a greater appreciation for her father's role. This often graphic and realistic novel, written in memoir format, raises questions of moral principles and beliefs while it portrays the horrors of the Holocaust.-Rita Soltan, Youth Services Consultant, West Bloomfield, MI

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781551438474
  • Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/1/2008
  • Series: Young Adult Novels Series
  • Pages: 232
  • Sales rank: 1,466,552
  • Age range: 12 - 18 Years
  • Lexile: 740L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Monique Polak has written many novels for young adults, including her historical novel, What World Is Left, which won the 2009 Quebec Writers' Federation Prize for Children's and Young Adult Literature. In addition to writing award-winning books for youth, Monique Polak teaches English and Humanities at Marianopolis College in Montreal, Quebec, and also works as a freelance journalist. Monique lives in Montreal with her husband, a newspaper man.

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Read an Excerpt

I scratch the skin around my shoulder. I know I mustn't, but I can't help it. I am itchy everywhere. I fight the urge to jump out of the bunk. Besides, there is no place to go. We are prisoners here. If only this was the dream and I could wake up and return to my old life.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 1 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by LadyJay for

    Anneke and her family live a privileged life in Amsterdam. <BR/><BR/>She and her brother go to school, wear fine clothes, and never want for anything. Their world is turned upside down after the Nazis take control of Holland. They are forced to wear yellow stars on their clothing, they must attend a Jewish school instead of their own, and, inevitably, are forced to relocate to Theresienstadt, a "model" concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. <BR/><BR/>Life is difficult in the camp. Every member of Anneke's family must work to stay alive. They face disease, hunger, and violence on a daily basis. Anneke works hard to maintain her dignity and pride while in the camp, but her will is constantly tested. She watches as her father, a celebrated cartoonist, is forced to create propaganda materials for the <BR/>Reich. <BR/><BR/>Anneke does not understand how her father can help the Nazis while they are suffering. His reasons are made apparent once the war has ended. <BR/><BR/>WHAT WORLD IS LEFT is a work of fiction inspired by true events. Polak's own mother spent a little over two years in the Theresienstadt camp. Many of the events in the novel were taken from stories that Polak's mother related to her, including the family's means of survival. Polak's grandfather, a Dutch artist, created propaganda drawings for the Nazis, thereby securing their safety while in the camp. <BR/><BR/>Ms. Polak has taken great care in telling this story because it is so very personal. It is an excellent novel - a great tale of overcoming adversity in a time of such dark despair.

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