22 Jul / A Rebel in Auschwitz: The True Story of the Resistance Hero Who Fought the Nazis from Inside the Camp by Jack Fairweather [in School Library Journal]
What’s immediately striking here is the casting of a woman to narrate: the titular rebel is the Polish hero – a man – Witold Pilecki. So, too, is the author, Jack Fairweather, who adapted his 2019 award-winning The Volunteer. The reasons for choosing a female voice never seem obvious, but Betsy Meiman confidently reads on, her performance consistently crisp and thoughtful.
In a narrative about Auschwitz, the graphic horrors haunt, but Meiman remains in careful control, never devolving toward frenzied overdramatization. Three months after the Germans opened the infamous Polish death camp, Pilecki entered its hell in September 1940: “his mission, for the Polish resistance [was] to infiltrate the camp, create an underground resistance, and gather evidence of Nazi crimes.” Pilecki survived for almost three years inside, saving lives, enabling escapes. His deserved recognition happened only after his death.
Verdict: She’s an unconventional narrator choice, but Meiman doesn’t disappoint.
From the introduction: All the titles here are nonfiction; most feature difficult subjects including history, climate change, systemic racism. Some might ask, why expose younger readers to challenging, unpleasant, haunting truths? One of the featured writers, Hilary Beard, provides the consummate answer back in her introduction to The Burning:
“…the fact that something is upsetting to us doesn’t mean that we should not engage it. Facing the truth empowers us to understand our self, our neighbors, and our world more accurately; to make appropriate choices and decisions; to heal the past and present and build a more promising future. Together.”
Readers: Young Adult