Irena's Jars of Secrets

By Marcia Vaughan
Illustrations by Ron Mazellan

Discussion Questions for Irena's Jars of Secrets by Marcia Vaughan, illustrated by Ron Mazellan

  1. When Irena was a child, what advice did Irena’s father give her? What did the advice mean to Irena?
  2. What word or words would you use to describe the mood of the story?
  3. Look at the illustrations. How does the illustrator, Ron Mazellan, use color and light to establish the story’s mood?
  4. Why did Irena feel compelled to help the Jews? What does this tell us about the kind of person she was?
  5. What risks did Irena take when she chose to smuggle food, medicine, and clothing into the ghetto? Put yourself in Irena’s shoes. Would you have taken the same risks? Why or why not?
  6. What difficult choice did Jewish parents have to make? What would you have done if you were in those parents’ shoes?
  7. What is an extermination camp? Why was it so important that Irena help the children of the ghetto escape? What obstacles stood in Irena’s way?
  8. What was Irena’s plan to reunite families after the war? How did it work out?
  9. Why were some non-Jewish families hesitant to take in a Jewish child from the ghetto and pretend the child was their own?
  10. What happened to the children after the war? What happened to their parents? How did Irena feel about this? How would you have felt if you were Irena?
  11. Why do you think many people in Poland during World War II chose not to get involved or did not try to stop the Nazis?
  12. If you could pick only one sentence in this story as the most important, which would it be? Why is that sentence important to you? 
  13. What were some of the best clues in the story that helped you figure out what was going on? Imagine you were explaining this book to someone who didn’t know anything about World War II. How would you explain the events in Irena Sendler’s life?
  14. Why do you think the author, Marcia Vaughan, wrote this story for young readers? What message does the story present?
  15. Irena was named one of the Righteous Among the Nations, an honor given to gentiles (non-Jews) who risked their own lives to help Jews escape the Nazis. Why do you think Irena was given this honor? What does this tell you about how others acted during the war? 
  16. Why do you think it’s important to learn about and remember people like Irena Sendler?


About This Title

Guided Reading:




Interest Level:

Grades 2 - 7

Reading Level:

Grades 3 - 4


War, Sharing & Giving, Responsibility, Overcoming Obstacles, Multiethnic interest, Jewish Interest, History, Heroism, Discrimination, Conflict resolution, Breaking Gender Barriers, Empathy/Compassion, Informational Text, Integrity/Honesty , Leadership, Optimism/Enthusiasm, Persistence/Grit, Respect/Citizenship, World War II


Biography and Memoir Middle School

Human Rights Collection, High-Low Books for Preteens (Grades 4-6), Women's History Highlights Collection, Women's History Collection, English Guided Reading Level R, Fluent English, Fluent Dual Language , Biography and Memoir Grades 3-6, Appendix B Diverse Collection Grades 3-6, Appendix B Diverse Collection Middle School, Responsibility/Leadership, Persistence and Determination Collection, Courage and Bravery Collection, Problem-Solving Collection, Social and Emotional Learning Collection, Social Activism Collection, Social Activism Collection Grades 3-5, Women's Text Set Collection Grades PreK-8, Women's Text Set Collection Grades 3-5

Diverse Backgrounds Collection English 6PK

Want to know more about us or have specific questions regarding our Teacher's Guides?

Please write us!


Terms of Use