I Promise You

Yael Mer­mel­stein
  • Review
By – March 23, 2017

This is the sto­ry of the author’s grand­moth­er, Miri­am (Maniu­sia) Adler, whose Holo­caust expe­ri­ence began in her native Poland in 1939, at age 11. Though her sto­ry is not so dif­fer­ent from oth­ers, I Promise You is unique in that it is writ­ten com­plete­ly as a series of free-verse poems from Maniusia’s point of view. She begins as an inno­cent young girl in a promi­nent Has­sidic fam­i­ly, matur­ing as she suf­fers the depri­va­tions and loss­es that come with life in the Ghet­to of Lodz, and even­tu­al­ly sev­er­al con­cen­tra­tion camps.

Its free-verse for­mat makes this book out­stand­ing in its genre of young adult Holo­caust lit­er­a­ture. The poet­ry is sim­ple, unaf­fect­ed, yet full of metaphor. Because the chap­ters” are actu­al­ly poems, the sto­ry can be read in small incre­ments, a help­ful fea­ture for such a dif­fi­cult subject. 

There are no illus­tra­tions, though the text on each page is super­im­posed over a pho­to­graph of the barbed-wire, elec­tri­fied fence of a con­cen­tra­tion camp. At the end of the sto­ry, there is an Author’s Post­script, sum­ma­riz­ing her grandmother’s adult life. This is fol­lowed by sev­er­al pages of pho­tographs. The pho­tographs pro­vide a bit of opti­mism as we see Maniusia’s smil­ing wed­ding pic­ture, and some art­work made by her husband.

Rec­om­mend­ed for read­ers ages 10 and up as the vocab­u­lary is not dif­fi­cult but the writ­ing style is sophis­ti­cat­ed enough for adult read­ers as well. The read­er will def­i­nite­ly shed some tears while read­ing I Promise You, but will come away feel­ing inspired and hopeful.

Mindy Langer is a retired pedi­a­tri­cian and grand­moth­er of two. She vol­un­teers in numer­ous capac­i­ties for her syn­a­gogue and is vol­un­teer read­er of med­ical texts for Learn­ing Ally, a ser­vice that pro­vides record­ed books for stu­dents with print dis­abil­i­ties. She sings in a large com­mu­ni­ty choir and is an avid quil­ter. In choos­ing books for chil­dren she most enjoys those that are both chal­leng­ing and fun for the chil­dren as well as enter­tain­ing for the adults read­ing to them.

Discussion Questions