The King of Children (Magill's Literary Annual 1989)
Betty Jean Lifton has written about children a number of times; however, the subject of Janusz Korczak was new to her, as it will be to most American readers. After hearing about him from a European friend, she began to investigate his life and works. The result is a highly detailed portrait of a very unusual man who defended the rights and welfare of the child despite the ignorance, apathy, intolerance, and war that marked his era.
Janusz Korczak was born Henryk Goldszmit in 1878 to middle-class Jewish parents in Warsaw. Lifton writes movingly about how young Henryk was not allowed to play with the rough children in the neighborhood and, therefore, had to create his own world in the drawing room to which he was confined. His early years were also marked by the increasing madness of his father. After his father was institutionalized, he had to become the man of the house. The result of these circumstances was that Henryk lost his childhood; he never had the freedom and innocence of the child. In an attempt to recover that lost childhood, he spent the rest of his life caring for children and living in their world.
Young Goldszmit went to medical school in Warsaw and was writing at the same time. He had decided to become a doctor rather than a full-time writer because “medicine is deeds” and literature only words. His first important work was Dziecko salonu (1906; the child in the drawing room). The book tells the story of a child...
(The entire section is 1921 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1989)
Chicago Tribune. May 1, 1988, XIV, p. 1.
Choice. XXVI, September, 1988, p. 177.
Kirkus Reviews. LVI, February 15, 1988, p. 264.
Library Journal. CXIII, August, 1988, p. 157.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. May 22, 1988, p. 12.
The New Republic. CXCVIII, June 6, 1988, p. 44.
The New York Review of Books. XXXV, September 29, 1988, p. 7.
The New York Times Book Review. XCIII, July 31, 1988, p. 16.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXXIII, February 12, 1988, p. 75.
The Washington Post Book World. XVIII, June 19, 1988, p. 14.
(The entire section is 63 words.)