5 stars for the Holocaust book: The Light in Hidden Places | Mentoring in the Middle

5 stars for the Holocaust book: The Light in Hidden Places

If your students are looking for heroes, put this spunky teenager in front of them.  

Stefania Podgorska, a 16-year old girl lives with her sister in the town of Przemysl, Poland after leaving her family's farm in the country.  For four years, she works in the Diamant family's grocery store and has been welcomed into their large family.  She spends much of her time in the store or their home and falls in love with Izio, their second-oldest son.  They keep their engagement a secret however because the Diamants are Jewish and Stefania is Catholic.

When the Nazis invade the town, everything changes.  Jews are deported or pushed to ghettos.  Izio takes his brother Max's place in line for deportation but promises Stefania he'll be back.  He asks her to wait for him so they can get married.

One day, there is a knock at her apartment door.  But it's not Izio, it's Max, his older brother, who begs Stefania to hide him.  She does.  And then she is asked to hide someone else.

She and her younger sister, Helena move to a little cottage on the edge of town with two bedrooms.  Over time, they end up hiding 13 Jews in the attic of that cottage.  

The AMAZING thing?  A short time later, she is told by the Nazis that she has to give up the second bedroom to two German nurses (who regularly invite SS officers over.)  For two years, this gutsy young woman and her little sister make up excuses and lies to feed 13 people hiding under the same roof as Nazis.

This book was hard to put down!  

Sharon Cameron, with all of her research and interviews with Stefania's son and access to her journals, does a marvelous job of getting into Stefania's head and the constant decisions she has to make to keep herself safe.  She shows us little Helena's thinking; the antics she comes up with to not give their secret away are brilliant.  Her description of the Jews hiding in the attic is not romanticized at all and I think that's healthy.  They argue and whine, and they often don't get along.  Just like any group of people who don't know each other and are forced to hide in a dark, cramped area for days at a time, never knowing if they'll get food, see sunlight, or be killed.

Like Malala Youfsazi, this young girl follows her conscience despite horrible odds.  This is a book that needs to be read and shared!

You might want to read this one with your students.  I've created a novel study guide with links, teacher directions, reading comprehension skills reviews, and answer keys for everything.

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