Prisoner B-3087 by Alan GratzPrisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz

Yanek is 10 years old when Krakow, Poland falls to the Nazis. He and his parents live in the neighborhood that the Nazis wall off as the Jewish ghetto so they have to take family after family into their small apartment to make room for everyone who is relocated.

After three years of living in constant fear that they will be taken by the Nazis, that their apartment will be raided for valuables (including food), that they will be shot dead in the street, Yanek sees his mother and father in a group of Jews who are being “deported.² He is filled with the terrible certainty that they are being taken to their deaths.

Yanek, now 13, decides at this moment that he will survive at all costs for his family who did not. Yanek makes this decision over and over throughout the next three years as he survives death marches, starvation, beatings, and loss in and between 10 concentration camps.

Prisoner B-3087 is based on the true story of Jack Gruener.  Jack’s story is even more remarkable than the fictionalized version, but Alan Gratz does an excellent job of detailing Yanek’s survival and the atrocities of the Holocaust. Gratz has a gift for finding the balance between writing about historical events in a factual way and keeping Yanek’s voice true and realistic as he survives horror after horror.

Prisoner B-3087 was not an easy book for me to read because there is no separation between this book and reality–these events really happened to real people. While I read, I questioned how it is possible to survive what Yanek survives and whether or not I would have the strength to do so.  I am still not sure.

There is certainly no lack of books about the Holocaust in Children’s and Teen Lit. Alan Gratz has written one that can proudly stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the best.