Life in a Jar

The Irena Sendler Project

Non-Fiction - Biography
398 Pages
Reviewed on 04/13/2014
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Author Biography

Jack Mayer is a pediatrician and a writer. He began practicing pediatrics in 1976 in Enosburg Falls, Vermont, a small town in eastern Franklin County on the Canadian border. His was the first pediatric practice in that half of the county. He was a country doctor there for ten years, often bartering medical care for eggs, firewood, and knitted afghans. From 1987 – 1991 Dr. Mayer was a National Cancer Institute Fellow at Columbia University School of Public Health in New York City, researching the molecular biology of childhood cancer. Most of his scientific writing was done during those four years. He was also an academic pediatrician at Columbia University’s Presbyterian Medical Center.
Dr. Mayer returned to Vermont in 1991 and established Rainbow Pediatrics in Middlebury, Vermont where he continues to practice primary care pediatrics. He is an Instructor in Pediatrics at the University of Vermont School of Medicine and an advisor for pre-medical students at Middlebury College.
Throughout his career, Dr. Mayer has written short stories, poems, and essays about his years in pediatric practice and hiking The Long Trail in Vermont. He was a participant at Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in 2003 and 2005 for fiction, and in 2008 for poetry.
He lives in Middlebury with his wife, Chip. They have a grown son, Alex.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Mamta Madhavan for Readers' Favorite

Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project by Jack Mayer is the biography of Irena Sendler who was instrumental in saving the lives of 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II. Though her contribution was first suppressed by the Polish government, she was later on elevated to the status of a National Hero for her heroism and work during World War II. The author has captured the moments of life and death that existed during World War II and the Holocaust, which makes the book a disturbing yet compelling read. This true story depicts the goodness that existed in the minds of certain people even during the times of war and strife that took many lives. The book also conveys the message of tolerance and acceptance of other religions and creeds.

Jack Mayer introduces a hero to readers whose heroic deeds will warm their hearts. It is not often one gets to read about these kinds of human beings who put their lives at stake to save others. Her act of courage and love will touch many. The Irena Sendler/Life in a Jar Foundation promotes the legacy of this great woman and encourages everyone to follow her path of selfless service.

It is a book that I will recommend all teachers, educators, and students because it conveys the message of how one person can change the world around them with their love and service. A stunning book that touched me. It is a beautiful novel that everyone should read, both for its history and message.

Jack Mayer

Most compelling of all is the story of how three teenage girls from Kansas found Irena Sendler's forgotten story and told it to the world. In so doing they helped crack open the silence about the Holocaust in Poland. Their story is an inspiration for students all over the world to do what they can to repair the world, as these teens did with Irena's story.


Praise for Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project

“The story will take your breath away ... and haunt and inspire you, as well.
. . . you don't want to put down the book.”
- 2014 Ben Franklin Digital Award

“While Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project is based on a true story, it reads like a novel. Mayer masterfully and seamlessly weaves together the personal stories of Irena and the students. . . This stimulating book is a story about human decency, courage, and social justice. It will appeal to anyone with an interest in history, as well as teachers of all subjects . . . But it has much wider human-interest appeal as well, due mostly to Mayer’s extensive primary-source research, which includes several personal interviews. He reveals the inner thoughts of the people involved—their joys, struggles, and fears—pulling the reader in on an emotional level early on and sustaining that interest throughout the book.
Through this powerful book, Mayer continues the girls’ effort by telling Irena’s story to a wider audience, and further illustrating how one person can potentially change the lives of so many.”
- ForeWord Clarion Review

“Kansas teenagers rediscover a forgotten Holocaust heroine in this moving historical drama. . . Mayer’s superb novelization of her exploits elevates social work to the intensity of a spy thriller. . . Writing in vivid but restrained prose, Mayer describes this agonizing situation with understated pathos. . . his rendition of Irena’s story has an inspirational power of its own. A gripping real-life tale of extraordinary courage that had an enduring impact.”
- Kirkus Review

“Jack Mayer has done a remarkable job in bringing to life the heroic figure of Irena Sendler, whose noble legacy seems to have reached into unlikely places with affecting and unpredictable results. Meticulously researched, this story has been told with grace and passion by Mayer, who brings a wealth of compassion to his book.”
- Jay Parini, author of The Last Station

“A beautiful story, beautifully told . . at last.”
- The US Review of Books

“This is a story of history rescued. It rekindles our faith in humanity. Every high school student and teacher should read this book. We all should.”
- Michele Forman
National Teacher of the Year 2001

“Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project is an extraordinary story of heroism during the
Holocaust, and its transformative role in the lives of three high school students in contemporary Kansas. It is based on the true but little-known story of Irena Sendler, a Polish Catholic rescuer of Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto, and of the young students in Kansas who rescued this history. Jack Mayer masterfully weaves these two separate but intimately connected stories into one larger saga that provides us with a unique lens into the Holocaust and its meaning and relevance in today’s world. It will inspire all who read it, especially the young.”
- Professor Francis R. Nicosia - Raul Hilberg Distinguished Professor
of Holocaust Studies, University of Vermont

“The monument to Irena Sendler was raised neither in Poland nor in Israel, but in the hearts and deeds of young Americans. Jack Mayer’s inspiring book brings to life the true story of high school students in Uniontown, Kansas and a Polish Holocaust rescuer. The teens conceived the theatrical performance called Life in a Jar. Their message was simple: one who goes against evil and rescues goodness, changes the world.”
- Professor Jacek Leociak, Polish Academy of Sciences
author of The Warsaw Ghetto: A Guide to the Perished City
(with Barbara Engelking)

“This story of courage, hope, and determination was born in the flaming hatred of Nazi-occupied Poland, was buried and lost amongst the rubble and ashes of post-war Warsaw, was uncovered and illuminated by three mid-western teens and finally, was given wings of words by a Vermont pediatrician, so that it might circle the world and touch minds and hearts with the message that you are never too small or too young to redeem mankind.”
- Steven Koller, MD

June Granger

I saw the movie" Life in a Jar" and was so impressed that I did my own research on Irena Sendler and also of the Holocaust and put it all together and gave it to the library so others could read about one couragious woman, a heroine.