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“The Nazis want to take everything from us. Do not let them take away hope,” Aunt Hannah. –I Survived the Nazi Invasion, 1944
I Survived the Nazi Invasion, 1944
by Lauren Tarshis
AR Test, Good for Reluctant Readers
When Nazi soldiers occupy Poland, Max and his family are taken to a ghetto. Soon, Max’s father is taken away in a cattle car. Left on their own, Max and his sister Zena must rely on each other in order to survive. With barely enough food to eat, the siblings make a daring escape from Nazi soldiers and hide in the nearby forest.
By luck, Max and Zena meet a group of Jewish resistance fighters, who take care of them. After the resistance fighters blow up a train, the Nazis begin bombing the forest. Can Max and Zena survive the fallout of the Nazi Invasion? Will they ever see their father again?
I Survived the Nazi Invasion focuses on how the resistance fighters helped defeat the Nazis. Tarshis uses kid-friendly descriptions to show the Nazis’ brutality. Even though the descriptions are not graphic, the story shows several people dying, which may upset younger readers. In order to survive, Max remembers the Biblical story of David and Goliath, which gives him bravery and hope.
When the Nazis arrive in Max’s town, Max is surprised that some of the townspeople begin to treat the Jews badly. Max’s father tries to explain the townspeople’s behavior by saying, “They have small minds… Jews are different. And some people are suspicious of what they don’t understand.” However, the story doesn’t only show the ugly side of humanity. Instead, it also shows people’s kindness.
Even though Max and his family are able to go to America after the war, Max realizes that “The Nazis had wounded him in other places, too, places he couldn’t see. In his heart. In his mind. He had scars there, too. And he would carry those scars with him for his whole life.” Even though the Holocaust was a time of suffering, Max’s story also shows that some people risked their lives to help Jews as well as the bravery of the partisans. Most of all, Max’s message is to never lose hope.
The story is accessible to all readers because Tarshis uses short paragraphs and simple sentences. Realistic black and white illustrations are scattered throughout the story and will help readers visualize the events. The story also shows people working together to defeat the Nazis. While the story weaves interesting facts throughout, the book also ends with more facts about the Holocaust. The I Survived series gives readers a glimpse into deadly situations without including scary details. Each book is told from a young person’s point of view, which will help readers connect with the narrator.
The conclusion shows Max’s family reuniting during the war, which is unrealistic. While some of the events are too convenient to be believable, the suspense will keep readers turning the pages. Readers who want to learn more about World War II should read Survival Tails: World War II by Katrina Charman. Older readers who are ready for a more in-depth World War II story should read Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielsen.
- While Max and Zena were hiding in the forest, “German planes road through the sky, dropping 1,000-pound bombs that fell with shattering explosions. Kaboom! Enormous trees became flaming torches. Sparks showered down like burning snowflakes…” Another explosion sent Max “flying through the air. His body twisted and turned.” Max lands in a ditch.
- When Max leaves the ghetto to find food, a soldier drags Max away from the camp. Max’s sister secretly follows them. When the soldier sees Zena, he points a gun at her. “Max’s body seemed to move on its own fueled by a mix of terror and fury. With all his might, Max threw himself against the man. The soldier teetered for a second, and then fell.” The soldier accidently shoots himself in the leg, and Max and Zena run into the forest.
- A group of Jews blows up a train filled with Nazi supplies. “A bomb exploded in a massive ball of fire. In a flash, the bridge crumbled, its wooden supports snapping like toothpicks. The train’s locomotive seemed to hang helplessly in the air for a moment. And then it started its plunge into the rocky valley hundreds of feet below.”
- When Max sees a Nazi soldier holding a gun at two people, Max yells at the soldier. “That boiling rage Max had felt earlier came back to him, powering his muscles. He gripped the rock, and with all of his might, he hurled it at the sneering soldier’s head… Thwack. It hit the soldier squarely on the forehead. The man stood in shock, and then stumbled backwards.” One of the Jews shoots the soldier.
- Max sees a Nazi soldier. “He was small and skinny, and he looked very young… He looked as terrified and confused as Max was.” Before Max can intervene, a Jew shoots the boy, and “the bullet hit the soldier in the chest. And as he fell dead to the ground, his arm jerked. His pistol fired. A split second later, the bullet tore into Max’s side with a searing, blinding pain. Max stared down in shock as blood gushed from a gaping wound.” Max recovers.
Drugs and Alcohol
- A soldier says, “We will find those filthy Jews who destroyed our train.”
- The Biblical story of David and Goliath is retold. When David fights Goliath, “David lunged forward and grabbed Goliath’s sword and—whack—he chopped off Goliath’s head.” David’s story gave Max hope.
- When Max is trapped under a tree, as he finally frees himself, he prayed, “he’d see Zena and Aunt Hannah and Martin and Lev waiting for him.”
- When Max is shot, several people pray that Max would survive.