The Champion of Children: The Story of Janusz Korczak

by Tomasz Bogacki

Book, 2009



Call number

E 736 BOG


New York : Farrar Straus Giroux, 2009.


In 1912, a well-known doctor and writer named Janusz Korczak designed an extraordinary orphanage for Jewish children in Warsaw, Poland. Believing that children were capable of governing themselves, he encouraged the orphans to elect a parliament, run a court, and put out their own weekly newspaper. Even when Korczak was forced to move the orphanage into the Warsaw Ghetto after Hitler's rise to power, and couldn't afford to buy food and medicine for his charges, he never lost sight of his ideals. Fully committed to giving his children as much love as possible during a terrifying time, Korczak refused to abandon them. In his most beautiful and heartfelt book to date, Tomek Bogacki tells the story of a courageous man who, during one of the grimmest moments in world history, dedicated his life's work, and ultimately his life itself, to children.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member wrightk
The Champion of Children is a biography of Janusz Korczak written in an accessible story format for children. It begins describing Janusz's childhood as a privileged Jewish child and his dreams of change in the world- especially for orphans. As he grew up he became the founder and director of a few
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all-Jewish orphanages in Poland. Once WWII begins, he and his children are forced into the Jewish Ghetto. Read the story to find out more about this courageous and heroic man!
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LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
"My life was difficult but interesting. That's the life I asked God for when I was young: God, give me a hard life, but make it beautiful, rich, and noble."

So wrote Janusz Korczak in his Ghetto Diary, a record of his time in the Warsaw Ghetto, before his eventual deportation, together with his
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orphans, to the Treblinka death-camp. Whether God answered this prayer is a question of metaphysics, concerning which every individual must come to her own conclusions, but that Korczak's life was filled with terrible hardship, astonishing beauty, and heroic nobility, is beyond all doubt.

Born Henryk Goldszmit, Korczak was a Polish-Jewish pediatrician, children's author, and educational reformer, whose ideas about the dignity of the child - his or her right to both respect and care - have greatly influenced our modern notions of childhood rights. This moving picture-book biography follows Korczak's story, from his own childhood - when he dreamed of being a king, capable of protecting the poor and abandoned children of the world - through his time as director of an innovative orphanage for Jewish (and then Christian) children, and his final years in the Warsaw Ghetto, when - despite a multitude of offers of rescue and shelter - he refused to abandon the orphans in his care.

Polish-born Tomek Bogacki, who grew up hearing stories of Korczak from his grandmother, tells this powerful story with quiet, simple words, and expressive, poignant acrylic paintings. The effect is simply devastating. By the time I had reached the end, as Korczak and his children walk calmly toward the train that will carry them to Treblinka, I was weeping. A beautiful book about a beautiful soul, The Champion of Children belongs in every library.
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LibraryThing member Lisa2013
This was spectacular! I loved everything about this book. For a picture book it manages to pack in a lot. A lot of general historical background is given, in the story proper and in the historical note in the final two pages of the book. The story of Korczak’s boyhood and how he came to be the
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man he was and details about all his years of life. Details about his orphanage and other work with and on behalf of children. And the pictures are glorious. Absolutely beautiful and fitting perfectly with the text account. Wonderful facial expressiveness on the paintings of Korczak! Be prepared to feel emotional. With this true story it’s warranted, and the book doesn’t disappoint. Though extremely sad, Kroczak and the impact he had and still has, kept it from being depressing for me. I found it inspiring. Also apropos.

Janusz Korczak is someone I greatly admire, and I appreciated that the author-illustrator feels that way too, from his boyhood in Poland, and so this tribute to the man seems particularly special.

Thank you so much to Goodreads friend Abigail who recently urged me to read this. Many books I shelve as to-read never get read, and I’m so grateful that this one didn’t languish forever on my to-read shelf.

I have to get to Betty Jean Lifton’s book about Korczak! It’s mentioned here in the sources, and I appreciate the reminder.

If you don’t know about this remarkable man and you’re open to reading a children’s picture book, I highly recommend this one. I also recommend this book to readers of all ages who do know about this man. This could work as a good introduction to the Holocaust for school aged children. This book was published in 2009; I hate to contemplate how it might never have been. I wish it was more widely known and read; unfortunately, there are relatively few ratings/reviews here at Goodreads and even fewer at LibraryThing.
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0374341362 / 9780374341367
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