Iturbe, Antonio. Librarian of Auschwitz, The. Fiction. Translated from the Spanish by Lilit Thwaites. Holt, 10/2017. 432pp. $19.99. 978-1-62779-618-7. OUTSTANDING. GRADES 7-ADULT.
In 1944, Dita Adlerova, along with her mother and father and countless Jewish citizens, is transferred from the Terezín ghetto in Prague to Auschwitz-Birkenau. There, they are imprisoned in the “family camp,” a propaganda front that the Nazis constructed in order to convince international observers that Auschwitz was an internment camp and not a factory designed to exterminate the Jewish race, run by the infamous Dr. Mengele. As part of a secret school there, 14-year-old Dita is tasked with the job of block librarian responsible for maintaining and concealing eight print books—contraband in Auschwitz—and six “living” books—teachers who tell stories by heart. Terrified but courageous, Dita is determined to keep hope alive through a few precious stories. Originally published in Spain (2012, Editorial Planeta), this engrossing tale captures the effects of Hitler’s Nazi movement through straightforward descriptions and poignant prose. Present tense lends a sense of urgency and moves the plot along quickly. Memories and flashbacks, which enrich character identities, are recounted in past tense. Third-person narrative adds sophistication. Characters are richly developed, and their back stories delve into many aspects of the Holocaust, including details of conditions inside Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen, and Jewish life before and after the war. Based on the real life of Auschwitz prisoner Dita Kraus, this important text offers a deep and very human insight into one of history’s darkest episodes. Review based on an ARC.
Sarah Jo Zaharako, Independent