The Boy Who ­Followed His Father into Auschwitz: A True Story Retold for Young Readers

Quill Tree/HarperCollins/. Jan. 2023. 384p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780063236172.
Gr 7 Up–The young reader’s edition of Dronfield’s adult title of the same name is a heartrending and absolutely necessary read about the scope and depth of the Holocaust. Put together with meticulous research and interviews, this powerful work of narrative nonfiction follows the Viennese Kleinmann family and their many experiences before and during World War II. Most of the book focuses on Fritz, age 16 in 1939, and his father, Gustav, who are taken to the Buchenwald concentration camp and the many small and brave things they had to do to survive grueling, inhumane circumstances. For young people who only have an idea of what the Holocaust meant, Fritz’s story will give them insight into how a father and son craftily and barely survived three concentration camps, including Auschwitz, until American liberation in 1945. The book also follows Fritz’s brother Kurt, who at age 10 is sent to America and is taken care of by family friends. Dronfield met Kurt in 2013 when he was translating Fritz’s book, which includes his father’s secret journal. These shifts in point of view, between Fritz and Kurt, can be confusing, but the author’s note and the time line at the end pull the stories together. Conversations are reconstructed, and readers will be absorbed by the life-or-death decisions Fritz and Gustav make together.
VERDICT This essential work shows young readers how the Holocaust came to happen and how two amazing human beings survived its horrors.

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