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Review: The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe

Title: The Librarian of Auschwitz
Author: Antonio Iturbe
Year Published: 2017

Genre: YA historical fiction
Pages: 428
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2017 Google Reading map): Poland

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Based on the experience of real-life Auschwitz prisoner Dita Kraus, this is the incredible story of a girl who risked her life to keep the magic of books alive during the Holocaust.

Fourteen-year-old Dita is one of the many imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Taken, along with her mother and father, from the Terezín ghetto in Prague, Dita is adjusting to the constant terror that is life in the camp. When Jewish leader Freddy Hirsch asks Dita to take charge of the eight precious volumes the prisoners have managed to sneak past the guards, she agrees. And so Dita becomes the librarian of Auschwitz.
Out of one of the darkest chapters of human history comes this extraordinary story of courage and hope.
Review: I know, another Holocaust book. But look at that cover! And it's a book about books. How could I resist?!

I think I read this book at the wrong time as I am not going to say it is incredible or one of the best books set in the Holocaust that I've read. But I feel the need to explain. Currently my town is dealing with the Thomas Fire, a beast that has burned over 270,000 acres over the past two weeks. I have been evacuated from my house and we have to wear masks all day due to the unsafe air quality. It is just a few days before Christmas and we have done no decorating or shopping. I think it was the wrong time to read a book with such a heavy and important topic. I am already down and feeling discombobulated so that is coloring my feelings for this book.

With all that said, I do think this book is well done and covers aspects of life in Auschwitz that were new to me: the family block; prisoners managing to teach the children in secrecy; a "library" of 8 books; and inner workings of the camp that are different from what I've read before.

Dita is such a strong character (and, apparently person) who stands up for herself, takes risks, and grows up during the telling of the story. At fourteen she is on the cusp of adulthood, which is accelerated by her experiences. I also liked her friendship with Magrit and it makes me happy that they kept in touch long through adulthood. 

I also liked that the author explained what happened to the real people after they were liberated. Somehow that makes the ending more uplifting; to see that the main characters made it out and had productive long lives feels good.

Challenges for which this counts:

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