Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz | Review
By Alan Gratz
Age Range: 10 – 14 years
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press (March 1, 2013)
What to Expect: War, Loss of family, Persecution, Survival
The B-3087 of the title refers to the number that was tattooed on Jack Gruener’s wrist in the Nazi camps, where prisoners became numbers instead of names. This book is based on the true story of Yanek Gruener, a young Polish boy who came of age in the Nazi camps—ten of them—during Hitler’s years of conquest. Ten years old when the story opens, at first Yanek hoped his father was right; that the Nazi invasion of Poland wouldn’t last; that the Allies would defeat Germany. But the war dragged on, and Yanek spent six years in enforced slavery, his survival in question from moment to moment.
This is a novel, but it is based on the true story of Jack Gruener (and, later, his wife, Ruth, whom he married after they survived the war.) Alan Gratz’s writing is compelling, as he shows how, little by little, Polish Jews lost one freedom after another, until they were finally rounded up and sent to work camps—camps that were unthinkable in their unrelenting cruelty. Jack Gruener lost everyone in his family. Being the sole survivor fueled his determination to live, and in that sense, it’s an uplifting read, a testament to the human will to survive and triumph. A painful but worthwhile read.
I’ve read a good deal of Holocaust literature, and this was well written for middle school readers. Still, I think follow-up discussions will be necessary; younger readers especially will have so many questions.
This book will appeal to readers grades 5 to 9, who are interested in history and stories about the Holocaust, stories of survival, stories about triumph of the human spirit.
Add this book to your collection: Prisoner B-3087
Prisoner B-3087 was reviewed by Elizabeth Varadan.