Paper Hearts

Paper Hearts

For Ages: 12 - 99
  • 9
A forbidden gift helps two teenage girls find hope, friendship, and the will to live in this “beautifully told true story about brave young women who refused to be victims and walked out of Auschwitz with their heads unbowed” (School Library Journal).

An act of defiance.
A statement of hope.
A crime punishable by death.

Making a birthday card in Auschwitz was all of those things. But that is what Zlatka did, in 1944, for her best friend, Fania. She stole and bartered for paper and scissors, secretly creating an origami heart. Then she passed it to every girl at the work tables to sign with their hopes and wishes for happiness, for love, and most of all—for freedom.

Fania knew what that heart meant, for herself and all the other girls. And she kept it hidden, through the bitter days in the camp and through the death marches. She kept it always.

This novel is based on the true story of Fania and Zlatka, the story of the bond that helped them both to hope for the best in the face of the worst. Their heart is one of the few objects created in Auschwitz, and can be seen today in the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre.
  • Margaret K. McElderry Books | 
  • 368 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781481439848 | 
  • September 2016 | 
  • Grades 7 and up | 
  • Lexile ® 600L
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Read an Excerpt

Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide for

Paper Hearts

By Meg Wiviott

Prereading Activities

1. Write a card to a friend to tell them how much they mean to you.

2. Write down what you already know about Auschwitz and the Holocaust. What do you know about daily life in the camps?

3. Look up the word “dehumanization.” What does it mean to dehumanize people? What problems does it cause?

Discussion Questions

1. Using ghettos and concentration camps, the Nazis intended to destroy their prisoners’ humanity. How did the inmates of Auschwitz fight back?

2. Fania’s paper heart was real, and it is now displayed by the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre. It is one of the only artifacts purposefully created by prisoners at Auschwitz. What is so significant about the heart? What can we learn from it?

3. Why did Zlatka and her friends decide to make the heart for Fania? What were they risking by doing so?

4. Paper Hearts was deemed a “story about brave young women who refused to be victims and walked out of Auschwitz with their heads unbowed” by School Library Journal. How were Zlatka and Fania brave?

5. Zlatka tells Fania “your kindness makes me brave.” What does it mean to be kind in Auschwitz? Would it have been better for Fania to protect herself rather than look after Zlatka?

6. Do you think birthd see more

About the Author

Meg Wiviott

Meg Wiviott is the author of Paper Hearts, which was a YALSA Best Book of the Year, a BFYA pick, and an Amelia Bloomer Pick. She is also the author of the award-winning picture book Benno and the Night of Broken Glass. She was a history major at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, earned a Master’s in Education from Northwestern University, and graduated with an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from The Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and a ridiculously friendly cat. They have two grown children. Visit her online at