Irena's Jars of Secrets

By Sinai Akaba School Library Blog

…The story, inspiring without whitewashing the events, fairly provokes student discussion on a particularly high-level of thinking. “What did her father mean that you should rescue a drowning person even if you can’t swim?” “How did Irena convince parents to give up their children?” “How did she think so quickly during her rescues? What would you have done?” Ron Mazellan’s dark, off-focus illustrations lend a soft, depressed mood, the only shining, sharp object in the 32 pages a Nazi helmet, which elicits another exchange of ideas…

The role of typhus in Irena’s life, first as the cause of her father’s death, and then as her entrée into the Ghetto as a nurse bring about questions of destiny, Irena’s unrelenting modesty about her actions, even more. While Vaughan covers much the same ground as Susan Goldman Rubin does in her Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto (Holiday House, 2011), Vaughan’s simpler, more drama-filled text seems better suited for younger readers. Vaughan’s afterword and author’s sources give curious readers a surfeit of new paths to follow on their journey to learn more. A strongly student-recommended volume.