I am Sasha by Anita Selzer

cover image

Penguin Books, 2018. ISBN 9780143785743
(Age: 13+) Highly recommended. Themes: Holocaust. Identity. Survival. Resilience. Born in Poland before the Second World War, Sasha lived on his own with his mother after his father's early death. This sadness was not the only difficulty that he would face. The advent of the Second World War added another level of challenge to their lives as Jewish citizens. Family and friends were in constant states of fear as the juggernaut of the German advance came ever closer to their lives in Poland. Sasha's mother Larissa is incredibly strong and resourceful as she seeks to protect her young son from the horrors of war and the anti-Semitic response displayed by soldiers and fellow citizens. Eventually she has a plan to protect her young son from detection as a Jew - she convinces him to dress and masquerade as a girl, so that he cannot be exposed 'with his pants down'. Suffering the indignity of giving up his identity, Sasha must learn to hide his true self in order to survive. Family and the resistance movement provide some additional support, but there is always hunger, threat and inescapable fear. This is an amazing story based on the real-life survival of Sasha and his mother, written by his daughter. The sadness that so many died in horrific circumstances pervades this story of survival.
This is an awesome story for those who do not want the terrible truths of our global past to be swept under the carpet. What happens when humans act inhumanely towards one another is always horrible, and remembering should help to prevent a repeat of the actions or at the least to provide an opportunity to examine one's own prejudices. Although the horrors of World War II are not hidden, there is not too much detail to make the story too graphic for a younger reader.
Highly recommended for age 13+
Carolyn Hull