Uri Orlev is arguably the world's most esteemed author of children's books about the Holocaust—and certainly the most widely translated. His first internationally successful novel, The Island on Bird Street, is a semi-autobiographical account of his survival as a young boy during the Nazi occupation of Poland. The book has since been translated into over two dozen languages, 19 editions of which we have in our collections here at Northwestern University Library.
Orlev was born in Poland in 1931, and lived in the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII. After his mother was killed by the Nazis, Orlev was sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where he spent two years. After being freed in 1945, Orlev and his youngest brother immigrated to pre-state Israel, where they were eventually reunited with their father.
Thanks to a curatorial focus in children's literature, Northwestern University Library has amassed one of the most important—and most comprehensive—Orlev collections in the United States. In total, over 170 of Orlev's books are available for checkout from the Curriculum Collection in 5 North Tower, Main Library. In addition, the McCormick Library of Special Collections houses a separate Uri Orlev collection, comprised of materials that Orlev donated to the University in 2009 as well as multiple dossiers submitted by the Israeli section of the International Board on Books for Young People to support Orlev's nominations for the Hans Christian Andersen Award. The dossiers contain biographical details about Orlev, while the remainder of the collection consists of photocopied book reviews, articles about Orlev, and letters from admiring readers, mainly children, from the United States, Germany, and Austria—many of which Orlev responded to himself.
In 1996, Orlev was honored for his lifelong contributions to children's literature by becoming the first—and so far only—Israeli recipient of the Hans Christian Andersen Award, the most prestigious award in the world for creators of books for children. His writings have also been recognized with a Bialik Prize and multiple Batchelder Awards, conferred by the American Library Association.
A new online exhibit celebrates the 30th anniversary of the first international edition of The Island on Bird Street as well as Uri Orlev's 83rd birthday on February 24, 2014. Colorful and concise, the exhibit is designed as an introduction to the life of Orlev and to his most famous novel for children.
To view the exhibit, click here:
Exhibit curated by Alina Dunbar, Administrative Assistant for Special Libraries. Many thanks to Jeff Garrett, Associate University Librarian for Special Libraries, Sigrid Perry, Special Collections Library Assistant, and of course, Mr. Uri Orlev himself.