Chanukah | Religion & Jewish Life

Unsung Heroes: New kids’ book honors Polish woman who saved children in WWII

The story of Irena Sendler, the Polish social worker who hid 2,500 Jewish children from the Nazis during World War II, is now a children’s book.

“Mommy, Who Was Irena Sendler?” by Cathy Werling is the third volume in the Unsung Heroes children’s book series, published by the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes. The book, written for children ages 7 to 12, tells the story of Sendler, a young social worker in Poland who was horrified by the way Hitler and the Nazis treated Poland’s Jewish people.

Determined to help save Jewish children from the concentration camps, Sendler smuggled them out of the Warsaw Ghetto and hid them with non-Jewish families. She buried their Jewish names and information about where they were sent in glass jars under an apple tree, hoping to be able to reunite the families once the war ended. Sendler’s story was largely unknown for 60 years until three American high school students discovered it during a history project and shared it with the world.

In “Mommy, Who Was Irena Sendler?” readers will learn how Megan Felt and two classmates in Uniontown, Kansas, uncovered the story. As the students began to share the story they called “Life in a Jar,” many lives were touched and forever changed. A story-within-a-story, the book takes the form of a conversation between Felt and her 8-year-old daughter, Blair. Now the program director for the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes, Felt shares two life-changing lessons about courage: the bravery of Sendler’s selfless acts, and her own determination to share Irena’s story.

“The book has truly changed the course of my life in a powerful way,” says Felt. “I want my daughter and other children to understand that they, too, have an opportunity and a responsibility to make a positive change in the world. Sharing Irena’s powerful story has become a passion in my life, and I feel it is necessary to share the story of good with others.”

“Sendler’s courageous acts during World War II are well known now, but they were hidden from the world until those students in Kansas discovered her,” says Norm Conard, executive director of the center. He previously taught social studies in Uniontown and assigned Felt and her classmates the history project that led to the discovery of Sendler’s story. “There are unsung heroes of history all around us, and their stories provide powerful inspiration. Ordinary people have the power to change the world — that’s the message of all of our Unsung Heroes children’s books.”

The Unsung Hero children’s book series includes additional books by Werling. “Why Did Grandpa Cry?” tells the story of civil rights hero Ken Reinhardt, who stood up against injustice as a teenager in Little Rock when his high school was integrated. “Why Did Sergeant Stubby Go to War?” is about a bedraggled rescue dog that went on to become a highly decorated war hero.

The Unsung Hero children’s books are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and www.lowellmilkencenter.org, and at the Hall of Unsung Heroes in Fort Scott, Kansas.

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