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Multicultural Literature for Youth

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Int. Lit #3

 

Orlev, Uri. 2003. Run Boy, Run. Translated from Hebrew by Hillel Halkin. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN: 0-618-16465-0.

 

In this action-packed novel, Orlev tells the story of Srulik Frydman, an eight-year-old Jewish boy separated from his family during World War II and forced to survive on his own. While fictionalized, this novel is based on a true story, which adds to the poignancy.

 

We first meet Srulik scavenging for food with his mother in the Warsaw Ghetto. His mother suddenly disappears, Srulik is lost, and he joins a Jewish child gang to survive. Later, he escapes to the forest, joins another child gang, takes the Christian name Jurek Staniak, and learns to survive in the forest and in the small villages he visits during cold weather. When Jurek loses his arm in a threshing machine, he learns to cope and to do most tasks with one hand. However, the loss of an arm slows him down, and life becomes more dangerous. One day a farmer inadvertently turns him in at local Nazi headquarters.

Readers will hold their breaths as they watch Jurek deal with danger and make narrow escapes.  A lesser person would have caved in, but Jurek has an inner strength which sustains him.

 

A 2004 Batchelder Award winner, Run, Boy, Run is fast paced, well written, and a “good read.” Readers see that survival takes brains, courage, risk-taking, quick-thinking, an ability to put emotions aside, and an ability to adapt to the dominant culture, even if that means giving up Judaism and learning Christian ways. Readers also see stereotypes turned upside down. Some German soldiers are kind, and many Polish people are hospitable, even when they suspect Jurek is Jewish. A few events in the story seem less than believable, such as Jurek meeting his long-absent father while they are both running from the Nazis. However, because this book is based on a true story, I assume this and other details are true. Fans of Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet and other survival tales will enjoy Run, Boy, Run. Those wanting to learn more about other times and places will enjoy the authentic descriptions of Polish villages, farm life, and village people during World War II.

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