Title: A Father’s Promise
Author: Donnalynn Hess
Major Themes: Holocaust, Jews, Poland, World War II
Synopsis: When they are separated at the beginning of World War II in Poland, Rudy’s father promises him that they will be together again.
I was surprised when my 8-year-old chose A Father’s Promise for me to read aloud, and even more surprised by how much all my boys seemed to love this story! I had read it many years ago, and thought it was an ok book, but not top-notch. Well, my sons seem to have a different opinion, and I must say, I liked it better this time than the first time, as well.
Rudy was 11 when the Nazis invaded his hometown of Warsaw, Poland, in September 1939. Within a few months, Rudy had lost his home, his best friend, and his father, and was forced to live in the forest with the Resistance soldiers in order to survive. He spent the entire five and a half years of the war either in the forest or living with and helping a widow, and caring for a tiny girl he found who needed someone to love her. Would his father survive the work camp he was taken to at the beginning of the war—and if he did, was there any hope of finding each other again?
I liked the way Rudy’s and his father’s faith was portrayed in this story. Though they were Jews, they had a living faith in Jesus, and they did their best to share this faith with Salek, Rudy’s friend, and his father. I also appreciated the way Rudy’s father encouraged him, and sent him away to save his life, even though it meant he would be alone.
This is a good introduction to World War II and the terrible way the Nazis treated the Jews and the Poles. There were a few scenes that were not nice to read. At the same time, the power of love and hope shines through. Taken all in all, this is a worthwhile introduction to World War II and the Holocaust, as well as an inspirational story for children.
WARNING: Rudy is clubbed in the face in Chapter 9. Chapter 13 describes the way doctors were instructed to “treat” typhoid patients. Chapter 17 describes a raid on a German convoy by the Resistance fighters. In Chapter 24, Rudy and another boy have a fight.
Listening Level—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12, 12 – 15