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Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzy Zail

Fourteen year old Alexander Altmann has lost everything – his home, his horses, his family, his name… It is World War Two, and Alexander is a Jewish inmate at Auschwitz. In order to survive, he puts his hand up for a job in the stables, but when he is asked to break in the commander’s horse – an seemingly impossible task – his life and that of the horse’s are in danger if he doesn’t succeed.

Suzy Zail has crafted a gripping tale of survival in the wost of circumstances, and reveals that kindness can be found in the most unlikely of places. Alexander is a character that has shut himself off from everyone in order to survive. It has worked well for him so far, but he starts to learn that being alone isn’t always the safest, and that trust and friendship can help you survive too.

The fact that Alexander Altmann A10567 is loosely based on a true story makes is all the more powerful. Zail has put a huge amount of work into researching the ins and outs of Auschwitz, and it comes through in her writing. Her authenticity gives a new insight into life in the concentration camps, showing the sort of jobs that inmates would do, particularly in the stables.

There are plenty of comparisons between the horses in the stables and the inmates, and most of the time the horses were treated with more respect. After all, even horses were given names (once they proved their worth), while inmates were addressed by the numbers tattooed on their arms. Even more comparisons are drawn between Alexander and Midnight, the commander’s horse he is breaking in. Midnight is head shy and has serious trust issues. The horse needs to learn to trust Alexander, just as Alexander needs to learn to trust others in order to survive his time at Auschwitz.

A powerful novel for ages 11+, Alexander Altmann A10567, by Suzy Zail reveals much about the nature of humanity, and shows that good and evil aren’t simple concepts, as even in the most dire of circumstances, good can be found in people.

REVIEWER: JJ McConnachie

TITLE: Alexander Altmann A10567

AUTHOR(S): Suzy Zail

PUBLISHER: Walker Books

RRP: $21.99