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Fiction Ages 12+
Pages: 232
Themes: Holocaust, concentration camps, survival
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
Pub Date: 01/10/2008
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A pampered child used to having her own way, Anneke Van Raalte lives outside Amsterdam, where her father is a cartoonist for the Amsterdam newspaper. Though Anneke's family is Jewish, her religion means little to her. Anneke's life changes in 1942 when the Nazis invade Holland, and she and her family are deported to Theresienstadt, a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. Not only are conditions in the camp appalling, but the camp is the site of an elaborate hoax: the Nazis are determined to convince the world that Theresienstadt is an idyllic place and that European Jews are thriving under the Nazi regime. Because he is an artist, Anneke's father is compelled to help in the propaganda campaign, and Anneke finds herself torn between her loyalty to her family and her sense of what is right. What World is Left was inspired by the experiences of the author's mother, who was imprisoned in Theresienstadt during World War II.

Growing up in Montreal, author Monique Polak's mother talked little about her imprisonment in Theresienstadt. It was only recently that Monique's mother, now almost 80, shared her story. She and her family survived the camp largely on account of her father, Jo Spier, a well-known Dutch cartoonist who was forced by the Nazis to contribute to their hoax by producing propaganda drawings.

As part of Monique's research for this book, she traveled to her mother's childhood home in Broek in Waterland, Holland; visited the Jewish Lyceum she attended in Amsterdam (where Anne Frank was a fellow student); and traveled to Theresienstadt in the Czech Republic.

What World Is Left is a work of fiction that draws on the childhood experiences of Monique's mother. In it, Monique explores complex moral choices and their implications. Parents, teachers, and YA authors all try to teach young people to distinguish between right and wrong, but sometimes—especially perhaps in wartime—that distinction becomes blurred. In What World Is Left, Anneke must come to terms not only with her own father's actions, but also with a world gone terribly wrong. Though What World Is Left is set during the Holocaust, its themes have special relevance in today's complex world.

What If? Magazine - December 1, 2009
"Intriguing and quite unique...The reader will undoubtedly find much to think about. I would recommend What World is Left to anyone interested in this often-overlooked piece of history."
Montreal Review of Books - July 31, 2009
"Polak's story breathes life into a period fading from memory."
Library Media Connection - May 1, 2009
"This well-written, painful story is a good addition to the genre of Holocaust fiction… Recommended."
Canadian Children's Book News - April 1, 2009
"Full of hope...This volume makes for great reading and an excellent resource for a school library."
School Library Journal - April 1, 2009
"[This] realistic novel, written in memoir format, raises questions of moral principles and beliefs while it portrays the horrors of the Holocaust."
VOYA - April 1, 2009
"Well written, thought provoking, and a solid addition to the canon of Holocaust fiction - perfect for reading lists and teens who enjoy historical fiction."
YALSA YA Galley Teen Review - March 1, 2009
"This book is well-written, the characters are developed so well you can relate to them, the setting is described such that you can picture it in your mind, and the action and suspense make you keep turning the pages."
The Rover - January 11, 2009
"Takes the reader to the heart of the horror by creating a character whose vivid confusion, disbelief, and innocence are immediate and powerful."
The Montreal Gazette - January 6, 2009
"The pressure and urgency of inspiration, not to mention tears and blood, is palpable everywhere."
TeensReadToo.com - January 1, 2009
"An excellent novel—a great tale of overcoming adversity in a time of such dark despair."
Tucson Unified School District - January 1, 2009
Tri State Young Adult Book Review Committee - January 1, 2009
"The descriptive narrative is cohesive, well-constructed, and compelling and provides a different view of what a man deemed necessary to survive.
Resource Links - December 1, 2008
"This book certainly holds its own in the canon of Holocaust-based fiction for the young adult audience...Polak balances this [dark reality] with uplifting moments of friendship, family tenderness and even romance."
The Chronicle Herald - November 9, 2008
"A powerful story of growing up in unspeakable conditions, of human suffering, loss and, ultimately, hope."
by: Nikki Tate, "All Points West," CBC Radio One - November 6, 2008
"The underlying truth of what happened and how her family survived is really what makes this utterly compelling fiction…I am so grateful to [Monique and other authors like her] who tackle these really difficult stories and write unflinching books for teenagers."
Booklist - November 1, 2008
[Starred review] "Heartbreaking. An important addition to the Holocaust curriculum."
CM Magazine - October 24, 2008
"Through Anneke's eyes, author Monique Polak presents an astonishing and depressing event."
Publishers Weekly - October 13, 2008
"[Offers] a candid look at a father's presumed collusion, a perspective rarely seen in YA literature about the Holocaust."
The Jewish Independant - September 26, 2008
"A very personal, thought-provoking and, ultimately, hopeful book."


Booklist Editor's Choice   | 2008 | Commended
Resource Links "The Year's Best"  | 2008 | Commended
Manitoba Young Readers' Choice Award nominee  | 2010 | Short-listed
ALA Best Books for Young Adults  | 2010 | Short-listed
Quebec Writers' Federation Literature Prize  | 2009 | Winner
CCBC Best Books  | 2010 | Commended

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