Sunday, May 8, 2011

Run, Boy, Run

Written By: Uri Orlev

Translated By: Hillel Halkin

Uri Orlev did not have an easy childhood.  He was born in Warsaw, Poland and was forced to hide in the Warsaw ghetto during World War II because he was Jewish.  He hid with his mother and younger brother from 1939-1941, but when the Nazis killed his mother, he and his brother went to Bergen-Belsen—a concentration camp.  He managed to survive the war, and now lives in Israel.  Uri Orlev has written many stories of his own past, but Run, Boy, Run is the true story of another young boy who also survived the Warsaw ghetto during World War II.  It is a story that moved Uri Orlev to tears when he first heard it—and a story that Orlev was inspired to tell.

Orlev writes from the perspective of an eight year-old boy, Srulik, who is eventually forced to change his name and lose his identity in order to survive.  Orlev brings to light the realities of the war.  For example, early on, Srulik describes how he and his mother had to search for food in the garbage.  “When his arms didn’t reach all the way into the garbage, he used a stick or a broken board.  He looked for peels of potatoes, carrots, beets, and apples and sometimes found old, moldy bread.  Everything went in a straw basket that he handed to his mother.  At home, she picked out what was edible and cooked it.  Although each family member received food rations, these were too small to keep them alive.” 

The story tells of Srulik’s struggle to survive.  At one point, Srulik got his arm trapped in a machine when he was working.  He was brought to a hospital and needed surgery.  After examining Srulik, a young surgeon said, “I’m not operating on this boy…Because he’s a Jew.”  Because the surgeon would not operate on Srulik, he ended up having to get his arm amputated.  After this happens, readers are left wondering how Srulik can possibly survive with only one arm.  Things are hard enough having both.

Having lived through many hardships himself, Urlev was able to captivate readers in through this compelling story.  He incorporated many details that make the setting real and believable.  After reading his account of someone else’s experience in WWII, I am intrigued to learn of his.  Run, Boy, Run is the 2004 winner of the Mildred L. Batchelder Award, which is presented to outstanding books originally published in a foreign language in a foreign country and later translated into English and published in the United States.  

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