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Review: The Boy on the Wooden Box (Leyson)

School librarian reviews a memoir written by a Schindler's List survivor.This is, to my knowledge, the only memoir written by a Schindler’s List survivor. Poignant, easy to read, and very sad.

AUTHOR: Leon Leyson
SERIES: none
PUBLISHER: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
PUBLICATION DATE: August 27, 2013
ISBN: 9781442497832
PAGES: 231
SOURCE: my library
GENRE: memoir

SUMMARY: This is a memoir of a young Polish boy’s experience in Nazi ghettos, work camps, and concentration camps during WWII. Leon Leyson and his family were among the Jews saved by Schindler’s List.

REVIEW: Full disclosure: I read this book because I had to, not because I wanted to. The Boy on the Wooden Box is one of 15 books on this year’s Shanghai Battle of the Books list. As I am taking twelve students to the competition next month, I figure I needed to lead by example and read all the books on the list. Even this one.

This is a super-sad but realistic portrayal of Poland during WWII. The title comes from the fact that Leon Leyson was one of Schindler’s youngest Jews, and he was so small that he had to stand on a wooden box to reach the controls at Schindler’s factory.

Though it is sad, this story also exudes hope and incredible strength and perseverance. It’s a WWII memoir, which may turn off some readers (I didn’t even want to read it initially) while engaging others. I do strongly recommend it for middle and high school readers. My Battle of the Books students have loved this one, and one girl told me it was her favorite Battle book so far.

THEMES: WWII, Holocaust, perseverance, hope, family, courage

THE BOTTOM LINE: The Boy on the Wooden Box is very readable and is a great way to help teen readers better understand the many tragedies of the Holocaust. A must for middle and high school libraries.

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We have two copies. With it being a Battle of the Books book this year, both copies are constantly checked out.



  • Overall: 5/5
  • Creativity: 5/5
  • Characters: 5/5
  • Engrossing: 5/5
  • Writing: 5/5
  • Appeal to teens: 5/5
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5


  • Language: mild; racial slurs
  • Sexuality: none
  • Violence: high; it’s the Holocaust–lots of deaths from starvation, illness, gas chambers, exhaustion, etc.
  • Drugs/Alcohol: none

This title also appears on my Narrative Nonfiction Pinterest Board:

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