Leyson, L. (2013). The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the impossible became possible…on Schindler’s List. New York, NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers. ISBN 9781442497818
Leon Leyson recounts his time as a Polish Jew during World War II, telling of his exodus from his village into Krakow and then back and forth between work camps and concentration camps. Due to his father’s job, Leyson was a member of “Schindler’s List” and his story tells how that fact ended up saving his life.
This gripping narrative that recounts the story of one of the youngest survivors of the Holocaust hooks readers from the very first line and has them turning pages until the end to find out if “little Leon” makes it out of the Holocaust alive. Leyson was one of the members of Schindler’s List and after the release of the critically acclaimed movie, he broke his silence and told his story of escape, shame, despair, and hope. Even through telling about countless tragedies and being shipped back and forth between the ghetto in Krakow and several Nazi camps, Leyson manages to maintain the slightest thread of hope. His straight-forward, honest approach allows the reader inside the travesties that were committed during this period in history. Leyson’s account also pays tribute to Oskar Schindler for his role in saving countless Jewish lives and conveys to the reader that there can be good even in those who are associated with evil things. Leyson takes no wrong steps in the re-telling of his story.
This account is aimed toward middle and young adult readers and is well-suited to that age range. Young adult readers may get slightly bogged down in some of the minutiae, but Leyson manages to tell the truth about what happened without being too graphic for younger readers. As with any book on such sensitive subject matter, parents should read the book first and decide for themselves if the book is appropriate for their child.
This book will appeal to Jewish and non-Jewish young adults alike by way of its young man’s point of view and honest account of very real events. Readers will be able to connect with Leyson through his journey and experiences, and will feel like they know him personally by the end of the book.
The Boy on the Wooden Box received multiple awards, critical acclaim, and fills a need for a fresh take on the Holocaust survivor story. This book is a great addition for middle grades and young adults that has the potential to become a classic.
In collaboration with the art teacher who will demonstrate a few artistic techniques, students will create a memorial piece of artwork.
Students may pick one member of Leyson’s family that was lost or perished during the Holocaust or they may create a memorial work for those members as a whole. The piece should include symbols and images mentioned in Leyson’s book.
Graphic Novel on same topic
Dauvillier, L., Lizano, M., & Salsedo, G. (2014). Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust. New York, NY: First Second Publishers. ISBN 9781596438736
This is a graphic novel story about the Holocaust for children. This would be a good companion to Leyson’s first hand account and will appeal to reluctant readers or students who struggle with reading.
YouTube Video of Leon Leyson Interview
Eliezrie, S. (1995). Holocaust Survivor Leon Leyson Testimony. Fullerton, CA: USC Shoah Foundation Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMyZ4LTpqWo
This is a 3 hour long video of an interview with Leon Leyson in which he tells his entire story. Obviously, it would be impractical to watch the whole video, but picking out a handful of clips would be helpful in giving students a visual representation of the book.
Kamin, R. (2013, November 1). [Review of the book The Boy on the Wooden Box. Available online from School Library Journal: http://www.slj.com/
Cover picture citation:
Heiden, Jamie. (Photographer). (2013). Cover of The Boy on the Wooden Box. Retrieved from http://books.simonandschuster.com/The-Boy-on-the-Wooden-Box/Leon-Leyson/9781442497818