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Irena's Jars of Secrets Hardcover – November 1, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Finding a way to impart even a small understanding of the Holocaust to children is a task fraught with difficulties: How can anyone comprehend such insanity? Vaughan tells the true story without embellishment, employing stark, unadorned syntax that never wavers into pathos, sentiment or myth. It is a definition of quiet heroism. Mazellan s very dark, deeply shadowed oil paintings capture the unabated terror and sorrow. Children should read this work with an adult who is armed with some knowledge of the material. Powerful. --Kirkus Reviews

Vaughan and Mazellan (You Can Be a Friend) have created a fine piece of historical storytelling, with brisk, reportorial prose and shadowy, impressionistic oil paintings that offer gripping testimony to the full horror and high stakes of the times. --Publishers Weekly

Mazellan s dramatic oil paintings mostly in appropriate dark, somber grays and browns cover most of each spread, leaving a buff-colored strip to hold the succinctly written, yet descriptive, text that can be understood even by those who have little or no knowledge of World War II or the Holocaust. A two-page recap that includes the impressive awards and honors bestowed upon Sendler is appended. --School Library Journal --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

MARCIA VAUGHAN has written numerous books for young readers, including picture books, beginning readers, and both fiction and nonfiction series. She was inspired to write Irena s Jars of Secrets after reading Irena Sendler s obituary in 2008 and discovering more about her through the work of Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project, an organization dedicated to bringing Irena Sendler s story to the world. Vaughan lives in Tacoma, Washington. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 1040L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Lee & Low Books (November 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1600604390
  • ISBN-13: 978-1600604393
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 11.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,043,490 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Irena's Jars of Secrets is the second picture book to come out this year on Polish heroine Irena Sendler, a young social worker who rescued over 2,500 Jewish children from under the noses of the Nazi guards in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II (earlier this year I reviewed Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto, by Susan Goldman Rubin). Both are well-written, worthwhile books, although they cover much of the same territory.

Irena's father, a Polish doctor, taught his daughter that if she ever saw someone drowning, she must jump in, even if she didn't know how to swim. Irena took his teachings to heart, and when the Polish Jews were forced into the Warsaw ghetto, dying of starvation and disease, she knew she must do something to help. Dressed as a nurse, she smuggled in food, medicine, and clothes, but that wasn't enough. Soon she joined the Zegota, a Polish organization established to help the Jews, and started smuggling children out of the ghetto however she could--finding families that would take them in. She kept careful records of the names of the children and where they went, so that they could be reunited with their parents after the war. These important notes were hidden in small jars and buried under the apple tree in a friend's garden.

Irena's work was terribly dangerous, and she was eventually arrested by the Gestapo and sentenced to death. Zegota members managed to rescue her through a bribe, and she continued to work for the resistance until the war ended. Although Irena was able to retrieve her precious records, very few of the children were able to be reunited with their parents, most of whom had perished in death camps or the ghetto. Still, relatives were able to be found for some of the children.
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Format: Hardcover
I've always been interested in the Holocaust and have read widely on the subject as well as watched numerous documentaries, docu-dramas, and movies about the Shoah. It is a dark topic which requires appropriate material in introducing the subject to the younger generation , and luckily for younger readers, there are many age-appropriate materials available these days.

Irena Sendler was a young Catholic social worker in Warsaw, Poland when the Nazis invaded her country in Sep, 1939. When she was young, Irena had been taught by her dying father that "if she ever saw someone drowning, she must jump in and try to save that person, even if she could not swim." This philosophy led to Irena risking her very life in order to save persecuted Jews in Warsaw, especially Jewish children who were completely helpless in the face of a great evil in the form of Nazi Germany and their plan of exterminating the Jewish race, what came to be known as the Final Solution.

Irena's position as a social worker enabled her to get in and out of the Warsaw Ghetto, the infamous area where thousands of Jews were confined. It was basically a prison where many Jews were cramped into close living quarters, and many suffered from starvation and disease. Under the guise of providing medical assistance, Irena made plans to smuggle out as many Jewish children as she could out of the ghetto and to the Aryan side of Warsaw.

Irena was aided in her efforts by Zegota, an underground organization. Together with like-minded people, Irena was able to save at least 2,500 Jewish children who would otherwise have most certainly met an untimely death at the hands of the Nazis.
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Format: Hardcover
This was a wonderful story. This is a book I will definitely recommend to my history department at school. It is beautifully and simply written yet the message is so powerful. It is the story of a woman, one of many selfless people, willing to put their own safety on the line to save as many Jewish children as possible from the Warsaw Ghetto. The Holocaust happened so many years ago that our children know very little about it. This is one way to start an inquiry based lesson on the Holocaust. This is an excellent book and one that needs to be on the shelves of all schools.
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Format: Hardcover
Reason for Reading: I enjoy this type of children's biography and the Catholic connection interested me.

This is a picture book biography of a Polish Catholic heroine, whose legacy has been hidden in obscurity due to the Communist state of Poland after the war. However, Irena's story did get out and has become wider known thanks to books like this. Though a picture book, this is one for the older set. I'd recommend it for the 9-12 age group or a younger child only if they are aware of the reality of the killing of the Jews in WWII. Irena's story is told wonderfully and we get a glimpse of what makes an ordinary person a hero. How bravery and courage are a part of a person's moral compass, and beliefs in human dignity can cause one to accomplish great deeds with no thought to their "greatness", simply just to their "rightness".

The accompanying illustrations are beautiful and fit the mood of the story. They are dark and by that I mean using a dark colour palette to remind us of the desolate atmosphere of the Polish ghetto. I'm not sure what medium the work is done in, perhaps guache or chalks, but it is very effective and blending and shadowing has been used to great effect. A great insight into the Jewish Polish ghettos of WWII and a little known Catholic hero. Would make a great addition to Catholic school classrooms.
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