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Kaytek the Wizard

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Kaytek the Wizard

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Kaytek the Wizard
By Janusz Korczak
Illustrations by Avi Katz
Translated into English by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
Penlight Publications, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-983868-50-7

Reviewed by Boris Segel - September 28, 2012

Kaytek the Wizard is a charming story for children and young adults that was written Janusz Korczak, and it follows the adventures of Kaytek, a boy who discovers that he has the power to alter reality and to perform magic. Basically, he is a self-taught wizard who uses his powers to get into no end of mischief. As events begin to spin out of control, Kaytek not only learns the extent of his powers, but also the responsibilities - and consequences - that come with using them. In writing this book, Korczak was helping children to understand how they could use their dreams, imagination, and innate curiosity to deal with any issue or problem that they encountered.

Set in prewar Warsaw, this book is filled with engaging illustrations by Avi Katz and fast paced dialogue, Kaytek the Wizard will delight readers of any age, and it is sure to be an instant hit with anyone who was mesmerized by J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels. In addition, fans of Harry Potter will delight in discovering the many similarities that exist between the stories, for instance while Harry has a cloak of invisibility, Kaytek has a cap of invisibility! However, many dissimilarities also exist. For instance, Kaytek does not have anyone to teach him how to use his powers. It is up to him to discover, on his own, just what his abilities are, and he must learn to control them - and himself - without any adult supervision.

Janusz Korczak was the pen name of Dr. Henryk Goldszmit (1879-1942). A pediatrician and promoter of children's rights, Korczak, who was Jewish, is perhaps best known in the West as the head of Dom Sierot (House of the Orphans), an orphanage for Jewish children located in Warsaw, Poland. This unique orphanage which was run like a tiny republic following democratic principles, and run, in large measure, by the children who called the orphanage home. When the orphanage, and its children, were relocated to the Warsaw ghetto, Korczak naturally went with them. Despite having multiple chances to escape, when the children were sent to the Treblinka Death Camp on August the 5th 1942, Korczak again went with them. They were his children, and he would not abandon them. He, and his young charges were sent to the gas chamber and summarily murdered by the Nazis shortly after their arrival in Treblinka.

Written in Polish, this book was originally published in 1933 as Katu Czarodziej, and it was an instant hit. Over the years, this riveting book has been translated into several languages. Until now, English has not been one of them. With Penlight Publications' release of Kaytek the Wizard, this oversight has been rectified. Over the course of this life, Korczak wrote numerous works of both fiction and nonfiction. While many of his nonfiction works have been translated into English, the only works of fiction that have made this transition (that I am aware of) are Kaytek the Wizard and King Matt the First. There is an ongoing effort by The Polish Book Institute to re-release as many of Korczak's books, in as many languages as possible, so hopefully more of his fiction books will soon be available in English. In addition, the Polish parliament has declared 2012 the Janusz Korczak Year, and they are working to promote his works and legacy around the world.

The history of the author aside, Kaytek the Wizard is an outstanding work of fiction in its own right and one that will continue to delight readers for generations to come. A monumental work of children's literature, this book deserves an honored place in all public and private libraries, both religious and secular.

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