Rummanah Aasi
  The new list of Bluestem titles for 2011 is now available at the Illinois School Library Association. You can find the new list, recommended by librarians, teachers, and students for Grades 3-5, here. I love reading from these lists, because I don't read too many children's books. I discover many new books, stories, and authors that I love. In fact I never even heard of the amazing Sugihara story until now.

Description: Chiune Sugihara was a Japanese diplomat stationed in Lithuania in 1940. He risked the safety of his own family members and defied his government by issuing visas to as many as 10,000 Jews who were facing death at the hands of the Nazis.

Review: Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story captures a snap shot of time where duty and ethics clash. In 1940 Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat, was stationed in Lithuania. He saved the lives of hundreds of Polish Jewish refugees by issuing them hand written visas which allowed them to escape the Nazis. He spent numerous days debating whether or not to jeopardize his family's security and his job in order to help hundreds of people. In the end, he consciously could not let all the refugees die. The story is told in the first person by the consul's son, Hiroki, who remembers himself at the age of five when desperate refugees were crowding at his father's door. He remembers how his father consulted his family and how they all discussed their choice: either help the people outside their door or let them all die. Hiroki at time could not understand the enormity of the situation until much later, but he did witness his father's dedication to personally hand write hundreds of visas. Lee's illustrations are lifelike, humane and beautiful. The pictures capture the intensity of situation by focusing on the faces of the characters and when we actually see Chuine sit at a desk with many people crowding the desk as he writes the visas. The gesture is monumental both in size and in meaning while looking from Hiko's point of view. grandure those days--when the crowds were at the gate and one man wrote and wrote the visas by hand--from the child's viewpoint. The narrative immediately grabbed my attention and made me think. There is an afterword that explains what happened to Chuine and his family as well as some of the people that were saved from the Nazis.  

Rating: 4 stars

Curriculum Connection: Social Studies

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 3 to 6.

If you like this book try: Terrible Things by Ellen Bunting or Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki
6 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    Wow, you read such interesting books Rummanah! Ones that make me think I should read more than my paranormal YA and romances, but I love them so much:) I like that this one has an afterword that explains what happens to everyone, it's nice to have that kind of information:)


  2. I like the PNR and YA genre too, Jenny but I'm hoping to slowly spread my wings and read other genres too. ;)


  3. I liked this book and the fact that it told a story that is slightly different from the usual ones we see/read. Thank you for the review


  4. Annette Says:

    I'm working my way through the Abe Lincoln Nominated titles. I hope to have time to read some of the Bluestems too. This sounds interesting. Here's my post about the Abe's: http://annettesbookspot.blogspot.com/2011/03/abraham-lincoln-illinois-high-school.html


  5. Alison Says:

    That sounds fascinating. Other than Between Shades of Gray, there's little written about Lithuania or other Eastern European countries from that time period (or any time period). Also, you almost never read books about Asians who live anywhere other than the US or Asia. A great diversity novel.


  6. Helen: I agree. Many of the books written by the Holocaust showcase how no one did anything to help the victims. This one is definitely inspiring.

    Annette: I hope to also read the Abe list. I've already half of them from previous years. It's a great list! :)

    Alison: I never knew that visas were given to the Jews in Lithuania. It's a great story and the illustrations are terrific! Do check it out if you get a chance.


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