The Under­ground Reporters

  • Review
By – August 6, 2012

Nine-year-old John Fre­und was a care­free Jew­ish boy grow­ing up in Bude­jovice, a small Czech vil­lage where he and his broth­er Karel loved play­ing soc­cer, hock­ey, and ice-skat­ing at the local are­na. With the Nazi inva­sion in 1939, life changed dras­ti­cal­ly for John and his friends. For­bid­den to go to school or even play on the street, they felt help­less against the new, con­fin­ing laws. Allo­cat­ed a small plot of land near the riv­er as their only free play area, they cre­at­ed a com­mu­ni­ty cen­ter out of an old shack where they could share their fears and con­cerns about their dark, chang­ing world. In an act of defi­ance and brav­ery, the chil­dren decid­ed to cre­ate a news­pa­per to show the com­mu­ni­ty their adven­tur­ous and cre­ative spir­it. The mag­a­zine Klepy,” which means gos­sip, began on August 30, 1940 and includ­ed sim­ply writ­ten sto­ries, edi­to­ri­als, poet­ry, and art­work. Con­tin­u­ing over the next two years, 22 issues of the mag­a­zine were cre­at­ed and shared by vil­lagers young and old. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, in April 1942, the thou­sand Jews of Bude­jovic received orders of depor­ta­tion. Most of the Jews were sent to the con­cen­tra­tion camp of Terezin and lat­er on to Auschwitz. John was one of the few to sur­vive. He made his way to Cana­da, where he often thought about his child­hood friends. With deter­mi­na­tion and a lot of luck, he was able to locate an old friend, Ire­na, who had actu­al­ly saved copies of Klepy.” John decid­ed to donate the papers to the Jew­ish Muse­um in Prague in the hope that oth­er chil­dren would be able to see the news­pa­pers and learn from their history. 

The Under­ground Reporters chron­i­cles the lives of John Fre­und and his young friends with humor, strength, and hon­esty. Inter­spersed with black and white pho­tographs, sto­ries, and art­work from the news­pa­pers is a riv­et­ing sto­ry of hope and courage. Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 9 – 14.

Debra Gold has been a children’s librar­i­an for over 20 years in the Cuya­hoga Coun­ty Pub­lic Library Sys­tem. An active mem­ber of the ALA, she has served on many com­mit­tees includ­ing the Calde­cott, New­bery and Batchelder committees.

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