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Father of the Orphans - The Story of Janusz…

Father of the Orphans - The Story of Janusz Korczak (Jewish Biography…

by Mark Bernheim

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I read four biographies, nonfiction specialized books, from the Jewish Biographies Series. The books are specialized rather than survey because they are meant to be read intensively, skimming would not give the reader a complete understanding of the text and the chapters are not autonomous. The information given is limited to the life of the subject, and the author assumes the reader has background knowledge about the Holocaust and a personal interest in the subject.
Although none of the four different authors of each book held degrees in the subject and only two were published previously, the passion with which they wrote was very obvious. From their author’s notes, I not only read about their awards and grants, I determined that they conducted extensive and thorough research to prepare each book, often traveling to the birthplace of their subject or reading original documents from the Jewish leaders and their families. For example, Mark Bernheim wrote Father of the Orphans by reading the deportation papers of Jews in the Burgundy region of France where Bernheim lived for several years. From this, I can decisively conclude that the books written here are accurate despite the lack of reference aids in two of the four biographies.
While reading, I looked for issues of sensationalism or overgeneralizations, but found none. Although one may read descriptions of the Holocaust and feel it is sensational, all the descriptions of the atrocities committed by the Nazis were necessary to the reader’s understanding of the horror of the Holocaust. To understand the bravery and distinction of the four men and women, the reader must understand their situation.
The authors organized their books in a narrative style, with a chronological style embedded into the text. Although the story may jump around the timeline, it always returned to the “cradle to grave” approach. Each author passionately described the life of each person and the time they lived, resulting in a partisan tone for each biography. All the books gave the reader extensive depth with a global scope as they thoroughly described the subjects and referenced the Holocaust.
I appreciated the illustrations, photographs and maps grouped together throughout the books. Most had captions describing the people in the picture and the date it was taken. The photographs would really help a young person understand the Holocaust and the physical toll it took on Jews in Europe at the time.

The books were all very clear; the chronological order of chapters helped to perpetuate each book. For the most part, the authors tried to use figurative, descriptive language. However, I felt like each author could have improved their writing with more vivid verbs, metaphors, and pronunciation guides to help make the information more accessible to the young target audience of sixth grade and older. Additionally, more creative chapter titles, leads and conclusions would have made the book much more exciting to read. ( )
  ChloePalmer | Oct 12, 2011 |
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A biography of the Polish doctor, author, founder of orphanages, and promoter of children's rights, whose life, though swept away in the Nazi holocaust, was dedicated to his love for children.

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