More Real than Fiction: The Holocaust from a Young Boy's Perspective


Yanek Gruner is 10 years old when German soldiers start infiltrating his home town, Krakow, Poland in 1939. As a Jew, Yanek’s life changes drastically. Used to playing boyish games, he is now fighting for his life. When the Nazis start sending Jews to work camps, Yanek and his family hide in a chicken coop, convinced it’s the only way to avoid being taken. It is not enough to shield his parents, who are taken away. Now 13, Yanek must fend for himself in a terrifying world. When he is taken prisoner, Yanek (now 16) encounters a whole new evil that even the hardships of previous years could not prepare him for. He experienced many near-death experiences and heartbreaking moments.

Yanek is a forced laborer in a series of wok camps, with long death marches between them. The one consistency is that he and the other prisoners are given barely enough food to survive, and have horrendous living conditions. As life gets harder and harder, Yanek must push through all the misery and despair to survive. In this heart wrenching and terrifying story, Yanek must find the will to keep living in the darkest of times - or die trying.

BTSYA  / Teen Reader (13):
I really enjoyed reading Prisoner B-3087 and how it captures Yanek's inspirational story.  It is written simplistically, but there are lots of details and everything is well put together. By meeting Yanek before the Holocaust, we are able to see just how devastating his losses were. The story is so vivid that I could feel what Yanek felt as I was reading: his despair when his parents were captured; the terror mixed with determination at the work camps; and small but bursting amounts of joy, too. The book has made me think about the Holocaust in a deeper way.

As much as I liked the book, the story got a bit repetitive. After a while, the misery and cruelty were overwhelming. There’s only so much you can read about suffering without getting a little bored with it. Aside from that, the story is extremely captivating and I would highly suggest this book to anyone 10 or older.

Reader Enjoyment Factors:

Readers who like survival adventures will be captivated by this fictional - yet very realistic - story of a boy trying to survive the Holocaust. Don't mistake this as "just" historical fiction - it is an inspirational story and Yanek is a character whom young readers will connect with.

Content Awareness Factors:

The backdrop for this story is the Holocaust. According to our teen reviewer, "the violence is a little extreme at some points, but not too bad as Holocaust books go."

Type of Book:
This is a first-person story about a Jewish boy during the Holocaust. Yanek is based on a real person, but because some details have been changed, it is considered historical fiction.
Educational Themes:

Prisoner B-3087 can be a starting point for additional, nonfiction histories of the Holocaust and the Nazis rise to power, as well as biographies of survivors. There are ample books that offer personal, true stories like Yanek's.

Separating the history from the character, there is also plenty to discuss Yanek's state of mind and means of dealing with unimaginable loss. What were his best character traits? What made that possible? are two questions to get you started.

Reading Level:
Recommended Age To Read By Yourself:
11 and Up
Recommended Age To Read Together:
12 and Up
Age of child:
Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™ . Reviewer age: 13
Purchase Recommendation:
Borrow, for sure. If you've never read a book about the Holocaust, this is a very good one.

Title Prisoner B-3087
Author Alan Gratz, Ruth Gruener, Jack Gruener
Publisher Scholastic Press © 2013
ISBN 9780545459013
Material Hard Cover
Cost $16.99
Genres Adventure, Historical Fiction, History - 1940s & 1950s, War
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