Hoorah for the postman! I was delighted with the parcel he brought this morning, which contained six lovely, fresh copies of Aline Sax’s The War within These Walls, illustrated by Caryl Strzelecki, published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, and translated by me. It’s a beautifully written and visually stunning story about a young man who grows up in the Warsaw Ghetto.
The book has already received a number of starred reviews and very positive reactions. Kirkus Reviews gave the book a star and describes the book as “gripping, powerful, shattering”, saying that “Strzelecki’s pen, ink and black-and-white pencil illustrations graphically depict pain and despair as they accompany text printed on stark white or black backgrounds. With the events of the Holocaust growing ever more remote with the passage of time, Sax gives modern readers an unrelenting, heart-rending insight into the hell that the Nazis created.” Publishers Weekly starred review says, “Strzelecki’s monochrome drawings use rich blue-gray lines on cream pages to portray faces furrowed with pain, then builds to nightmarish conflagrations, battles, and corpses. Sometimes a single sentence appears on a blue-gray page, the better to emphasize it: ‘I had never felt so Jewish before,’ the narrator says. Sax’s achievement is to have made every reader feel this with him.” Nancy Silverrod from San Francisco Public Library writes in School Library Journal that “The combination of the illustrations and the author’s spare prose make this a good choice for reluctant readers and an outstanding example of Holocaust fiction.” Booklist‘s Kat Kan says, “Everything about the format of the book—its tall and narrow shape, the somber blue-and-white illustrations that work together with the spare prose, the alternating white and black pages—makes the reader pause and take notice of what is happening. This very personal viewpoint of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising makes a powerful impact that will last long after reading.”
I hope that Aline Sax’s book will bring home the story of the Warsaw Ghetto to a new generation of young readers in America. The War within These Walls is a powerful story with hard-hitting words and images, and a tale that needs to be told.