Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Luba: The Angel of Bergen-Belsen

Luba: The Angel of Bergen-Belsen

Michelle R. McCann
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 8 and up
Tricycle Press, 2003   ISBN: 978-1582460987

"I have found that inside every human being there is a hero waiting to emerge." These are the words of Luba, the woman who was to become known as the Angel of Bergen-Belsen. In 1944 Luba had no idea what destiny had in store for her. In fact she was wondering "Why was I spared?" Her husband and little son had been taken from her by Nazi soldiers and their fate was unknown. She was lying on a hard bunk in a cold shed in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, ill-fed, and lost in spirit and sick at heart. Then Luba heard something. She heard a child's cry outside, somewhere in the cold night. When she went out and looked for the source of the cry, Luba found fifty-four miserable children. They were of all ages, including several infants. It was as if she was being given the answer to her question; this was why she had been spared. Here was her reason for living.

Luba took it upon herself to take care of the children. Somehow she found food and clothing for them all. She begged and bartered for whatever she could and the children survived. Most remarkable of all was the fact that Luba managed to keep their presence a secret. If the camp authorities had found out what was going on, the children and Luba would have been killed.

Simply written, but with the attention to detail that could only come from first hand stories, Luba's story is incredibly powerful and moving. Bold oil paintings cleverly accented and textured with collage give the text great warmth and humanity. In addition to the story itself there is an author's note which explains who the children in the story were and how they came to be at Bergen-Belsen. This is followed by a Prologue which neatly explains the basic outline of World War II and how the concentration camps came into being. At the end of the book an Epilogue tells us what happened once Bergen-Belsen was liberated by the allied troops and what Luba did with her life following the end of the war. This section is followed by an excellent section entitled "World War II and the Holocaust" and a Bibliography. This is a book about a truly remarkable woman, whose courage and determination, not only saved the lives of those five-four Dutch children, but also teaches us all something about the power of loving children and caring for others.