All About Adolescent Literacy

All about adolescent literacy. Resources for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12.
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The Concentration Camps

Memoir, biography, historical fiction, photo essays, as well as poems and art work, tell the stories of concentration camp victims and survivors. These books make an excellent complement to history units on World War II. This list is excerpted from Dr. Joan Kaywell's latest volume in her series Adolescent Literacy as a Complement to the Classics.

Night

Age Level: 14-16

This short autobiographical novel is Wiesel's rendering of his terrifying experiences as a teenager at Auschwitz and Buchenwald, Nazi death camps. A winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Wiesel graphically describes his witnessing the death of his father, his innocence, and his God.

I Never Saw Another Butterfly

I Never Saw Another Butterfly

Age Level: 9-12

This is a collection of drawings and poems that were done by children who grew up in the Terezin Concentration Camp in Czechoslovakia between 1942 and 1944. The terror, the pleas for rescue, and the reflections of beliefs and values of these children who lived during World War II are vividly captured.

Maus I:  A Survivor's Tale

Maus I: A Survivor's Tale

Age Level: 12-14

In this graphic novel, Spiegelman writes of his father's struggle as a Jew in Poland during World War II. In comic book form, the Jews are depicted as mice, the Nazis as cats, and those who side with the Nazis are pigs. Spiegelman won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for this work.

Upon the Head of the Goat:  A Childhood in Hungary 1939-1944

Upon the Head of the Goat: A Childhood in Hungary 1939-1944

Age Level: 9-12

Piri is nine years old at the onset of World War II, and her life becomes a nightmare when the Nazis invade Hungary. Her Jewish family is placed into a ghetto to await the trains that will take them to the concentration camps. Although the Nazis have little to no regard for them as people, Piri's mother courageously attempts to instill the values of human dignity and respect in her family. This sensitive fictionalized autobiography depicts the value of life in direct contrast to others' total disregard for humanity. In the end, Piri survives the horrors of Auschwitz.

The Cage

The Cage

Age Level: 14-16

This is the memoir of a Nazi Holocaust survivor. This grandmother speaks from her experiences in the Lodz ghetto in Poland and Auschwitz when she was a teenager. Riva Minska vividly shares how the Nazis destroyed her family, her community, and her way of life and tells how she managed to survive the death camps of World War II.

I Am Rosemarie

I Am Rosemarie

Age Level: 9-12

Drawn from the author's own experiences, this is the moving story of a young Jewish girl, Rosemarie Brenner, and her experiences in a concentration camp during World War II.

Fragments of Isabella

Fragments of Isabella

Age Level: 16-18

This ALA Best Book for Young Adults is the true, heart-wrenching, and unforgettable story of the author's experiences at Auschwitz during the Holocaust. The reader will be shocked by the atrocities and the horror that she faced but will be moved by her courage and willpower to survive.

All But My Life

All But My Life

Age Level: 16-18

Little did Gerda know that her father's insistence that she wear her hiking boots one hot, summer day would be her salvation from death. Gerda was able to see good even in the darkest of moments while struggling to survive in several concentration and slave labor camps. From January through April 1945, it was those boots that saved her from the cold during a brutal, 300-mile death march from a labor camp in western Germany to Czechoslovakia where she was the only one of 120 women who survived.

Fatelessness

Fatelessness

Age Level: 16-18

As a youth, Kertesz spent one year in Auschwitz and so develops this novel about a 14-year-old Hungarian boy's ability to see beauty even in a horrific concentration camp. Publisher's Weekly called its prequel Fateless one of the best 50 books in 1992 and this one won him a Nobel Prize.

Always Remember Me:  How One Family Survived World War II

Always Remember Me: How One Family Survived World War II

Age Level: 9-12

Rachek always begs her Grandmother Oma to tell the story of Oma's two lives: the one before American and the one after. The first part recounts her marriage prior to World War I and then her family's move from Poland to Germany to seek safety. Ironically, two of her three daughters spent time in concentration camps but all survived and were reunited in the United States. The illustrations really add to readers' understanding of this horrible time in history.

Torn Thread

Torn Thread

Age Level: 12-14

After hiding for weeks from the Nazis in Poland, the father of 12-year-old Eva sends her to a labor camp in Czechoslovakia to join her sister Rachel and avoid deportation to Auschwitz where she would face certain death. Suffering from starvation and disease, they are forced to make clothing for the German soldiers as they struggle to survive from one hour to the next. The girls rely on each another and their friendships with other prisoners as they wait for the camp to be liberated in this tension-filled story of human triumph based on the real-life experiences of the author’s mother-in-law.

I Have Lived A Thousand Years

I Have Lived A Thousand Years

Age Level: 12-14

Livia Bitton-Jackson a.ka. Elli Friedmann, was only 13 years old when the Nazis invaded Hungary. She recounts her struggle to survive with her mother, first in the ghetto, then in the Plaszow Concentration Camp (the one shown in Stephen Spielberg movie, Schindler's List), and then while working in a factory in Augsburg.

The Seamstress

The Seamstress

Age Level: 14-16

This posthumously published memoir tells of young Sara's resistance to anti-Semitism while growing up in Romania. For awhile, she was able to escape the Nazis by her blonde hair and blue eyes but eventually was caught and sent to Ravensbruck, a German concentration camp for female prisoners.

Alicia:  My Story

Alicia: My Story

Age Level: 12-14

Alicia was only 13 years old when she began saving Jewish lives in war-ravaged Poland. In this nonfiction account of the Holocaust, Alicia recalls how she stood on her brother’s grave and vowed she would tell his story.

The Children We Remember

The Children We Remember

Age Level: 9-12

This nonfiction photo essay focuses on the children in the concentration camps during World War II.

The Devil's Arithmetic

The Devil's Arithmetic

Age Level: 9-12

In this historical fiction novel, 12-year-old Hannah find herself transported back in time. As she experiences the horrific events of the Holocaust that were often recounted by her grandparents, Hannah finds new reasons to embrace her family and culture.