The Champion of Children: The Story of Janusz Korczak / by Tomek Bogacki


Title: The Champion of Children: The Story of Janusz Korczak
Author and Illustrator: Tomek Bogacki
Publisher:  Farrar Straus Giroux
ISBN:  978-0-374-34136-2
Year:  2009

Concepts: social justice, children's rights, scarcity, discrimination

Review:  Already at a young age, Janusz Korczak had a keen awareness of the suffering of homeless children on the streets of Warsaw, Poland.  He grew up dreaming about how he could fight for the rights of children and help improve their well-being.  Even after his father died and Janusz had to work to support his family, he still donated as much as he could to children in need. He ultimately became a pediatrician, and at the same time he wrote children’s books and adult books about children’s rights.  

Korczak also started a new orphanage for Jewish children that had an innovative form of student-led governance. Tragically, several decades later when World War II broke out, the Nazis forced Korczak and all the orphanage residents to move to a walled Jewish quarter of Warsaw known as the ghetto.  Although there was not enough space or food for the children in the ghetto home, Korczak did his best to provide them with care and comfort.  He never abandoned the orphans, not even when he had options for escape, and not even when they were sent to their deaths in a concentration camp. 

Korczak’s legacy as an advocate for children has made a lasting contribution.  His work helped to motivate the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the UN also declared 1979 as the International Year of the Child. Tomek Bogacki’s gripping illustrations and straightforward text work well together to pay tribute to this inspiring man. The book should serve as a useful tool for parents and teachers seeking to introduce younger readers to events from the Holocaust in an age-appropriate way.

Review by:  Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

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