Irena's Jars of Secrets

By Back to Books

This is a picture book biography of a Polish Catholic heroine, whose legacy has been hidden in obscurity due to the Communist state of Poland after the war. However, Irena’s story did get out and has become wider known thanks to books like this. Though a picture book, this is one for the older set. I’d recommend it for the 9-12 age group or a younger child only if they are aware of the reality of the killing of the Jews in WWII. Irena’s story is told wonderfully and we get a glimpse of what makes an ordinary person a hero. How bravery and courage are a part of a person’s moral compass, and beliefs in human dignity can cause one to accomplish great deeds with no thought to their “greatness”, simply just to their “rightness”.

The accompanying illustrations are beautiful and fit the mood of the story. They are dark and by that I mean using a dark colour palette to remind us of the desolate atmosphere of the Polish ghetto. I’m not sure what medium the work is done in, perhaps guache or chalks, but it is very effective and blending and shadowing has been used to great effect. A great insight into the Jewish Polish ghettos of WWII and a little known Catholic hero. Would make a great addition to Catholic school classrooms.