Monday, November 26, 2012

Nonfiction Monday:

Nonfiction Monday is a weekly meme in the Kidlitosphere that invites bloggers to read and review a nonfiction book on Monday as a way to promote high-quality nonfiction titles.  Each week, a different blogger "hosts" Nonfiction Monday and provides a roundup of all the posts.  This week Nonfiction Monday is hosted by The Miss Rumphius Effect.


His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg by Louise W. Borden

Thanks to the film Schindler's List, most people are familiar with the heroic efforts of Oskar Schindler to save over 1,000 Jews from certain death in concentration camps by employing them in his factory.  But most have never heard of Raoul Wallenberg.  In fact, before reading this book, I had only a vague idea that he was someone who helped save Jews from the Holocaust. There is a Raoul Wallenberg memorial in my hometown of Parsippany, NJ and this past summer I also visited the memorial in London, so I knew his efforts must have been heroic, but I didn't know the full story.  Now I do.  And it deserves to be shared.

Born in Sweden to a recently widowed mother, Raoul was fortunate to have loving grandparents who provided for a rich and full life.  Raoul was a natural at picking up languages, and his grandfather ensured that he traveled the world as he received his education and grew into a young man.  This would come in handy as he entered the world of work and especially as Hitler's army invaded Hungary and began transporting Jews to concentration camps.  Sweden was looking for a diplomat who comfortably spoke multiple languages and  could provide assistance to Hungarian Jews.  Wallenberg jumped in feet first, creating official Swedish documentation for thousands upon thousands of Hungarian Jews that gave them protection of the crown of Sweden.  Time was short, and it was imperative to Wallenberg to provide documents for as many people as possible.  Numerous obstacles, from new regulations and restrictions to SS guards, worked to curtail his efforts.  It was a dangerous business to defy the Nazis, and in the end, Wallenberg would give his life fighting for this cause.

Filled with photographs of Wallenberg, scanned images of actual "schutz-pass" that were issued to Jewish Hungarians, maps and other images, this biography is a visual feast.  Not a single spread goes by without a captioned image that draws the eyes across the page.  The clear, concise text provides all of the pertinent information while moving along the narrative at a quick pace.  At first glance, the layout made me think it was written in verse or intended for younger kids.  It isn't either of these things.  Borden writes in full sentences and paragraphs and the content is definitely for a middle school audience.  The structure and spacing of the text on the page makes it feel almost lyrical.  For me, this was a good thing.  I liked that it felt like the text supported the images, instead of the images supporting the text.  Especially because the images were primary documents, and the very ones that saved so many people's lives.  I can definitely see a student reading this book cover to cover when researching Wallenberg and getting all of the notes (s)he would need for an assignment while also becoming deeply invested in the story and wanting to learn more.  A fantastic introduction to a remarkable man.

Recommended for: middle school students and maybe high school students (though because of the format and structure, I think it might be perceived as a "kid's" book and rejected outright by high schoolers and their teachers).

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