Some of the best and most important books about the Holocaust for young readers are those that emphasize the spirit of resistance — the courage of those who took steps to fight back against the Nazi machine. The odds were heavily stacked against resisters, but their spirits live on, and books that tell their stories provide role models for the youth of today.
This fictionalization of the little-known resistance group Akiva is a riveting read that will leave readers in awe of the ghetto couriers and fighters it memorializes. The story is told from the perspective of a teenaged Polish girl, Chaya Lindner, whose family members have all been rounded up. Chaya couriers messages and supplies into the ghettos, and eventually joins the famous resistance fighters of the Warsaw ghetto. She and the other members of her group will inspire readers with their steadfast determination and single-minded purpose.
Resistance is difficult to put down once begun. Readers will root for Chaya’s success as she encounters terrifying situations that test even her iron resolve. Although not all of the characters in the book are as fully developed as Chaya and her primary companion, Esther, Nielsen makes history come alive; the action on the streets of the Polish ghettos seems immediate and graphic.
An afterword provides some information about the real resistance groups of the time, though additional, background information about the Holocaust would have provided helpful context. This book is a good choice for both individual readers and classrooms, and stands out in the sea of Holocaust literature available today.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A former librarian, she has lectured on topics relating to literacy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.