Author: Jane Yolen
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars
Hannah dreads going to her family’s Passover Seder—she’s tired of hearing her relatives talk about the past. But when she opens the front door to symbolically welcome the prophet Elijah, she’s transported to a Polish village in the year 1942. Why is she there, and who is this “Chaya” that everyone seems to think she is? Just as she begins to unravel the mystery, Nazi soldiers come to take everyone in the village away. And only Hannah knows the unspeakable horrors that await. A critically acclaimed novel from multi-award-winning author Jane Yolen.
My mom gave me this book and it fit perfectly into my Holocaust fiction kick. It’s a small, thin book and it only took me about an hour to read. It’s simple and uncomplicated and I think would be good for middle school Holocaust education. The only thing I didn’t really like about it was the “time travel” element. I get why Yolen put it in there, and it was good that Hannah “experienced” a lot of the things that she heard her grandparents and aunts and uncles talked about. And I have a feeling that middle schoolers would be far more accepting of fantastic details like that, it just really wasn’t my cup of tea. But other than that, I really liked this book.
I think it would be a great educational tool and it identified a major problem with our current education/youth culture. So many kids don’t care about the Holocaust or learning about it and they tend to either ignore or to sweep it under the rug. This book lays out in simple, yet meaningful detail, the circumstances faced by so many in the camps during those years under Nazi rule. I liked it very much and I would recommend it to anyone who likes slightly fantastic historical fiction and absolutely to any middle schooler.
Author: John Boyne
Published: September 12, 2006
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 5 stars
When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance.
But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.
This is one of those books that will rip your heart out and stomp on it . . . and what makes it different is that you don’t know your heart will be ripped out until it happens!!
However, before I even start talking about the book, I will say that this is one of those rare occasions that I suggest watching the movie before the book. Yes, there are differences, but I actually had a better experience reading the book since I knew a little more about what was going on. And to be fair, I gave John Boyne some grief last year when I read The Boy at the Top of the Mountain last year. But what he got wrong in that book, he didn’t in this one. Boyne has a knack for showing the other side of the story. He writes about the Holocaust from the perspective, not just of the Nazis involved, but of the children of those Nazis, affected by their parents’ actions.
Bruno shows such a purity and innocence that we have a hard time attributing to Germans during WW2. And where it seemed that passes were given in The Boy at the Top of the Mountain, and some explanation given in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, there seems to be far more consequences in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.
The Holocaust is condemned very clearly by the ending of this book and any “justification” offered by any of the characters is therefore rendered void. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is such an emotional book and I think a new and different perspective on some very difficult subjects. I absolutely recommend this book for anybody 12 years old and older. I believe this book should be required reading at one point for every student in order to graduate high school. Emotional and poignant and insightful.
Author: Elie Weisel
Published: December 4, 2012
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 5 stars
Translated by Marion Wiesel
A profoundly and unexpectedly intimate, deeply affecting summing up of his life so far, from one of the most cherished moral voices of our time.
Eighty-two years old, facing emergency heart surgery and his own mortality, Elie Wiesel reflects back on his life. Emotions, images, faces and questions flash through his mind. His family before and during the unspeakable Event. The gifts of marriage and children and grandchildren that followed. In his writing, in his teaching, in his public life, has he done enough for memory and the survivors? His ongoing questioning of God—where has it led? Is there hope for mankind? The world’s tireless ambassador of tolerance and justice has given us this luminous account of hope and despair, an exploration of the love, regrets and abiding faith of a remarkable man.
Elie Wiesel was one of the great heroes of the 20th century! His books have affected and touched so many people and his life has been an influence for good for so many years. He passed away 2 years ago and y’all know I’ve been on a Holocaust literature kick this year. This book is a short and easy read . . . but emotional like you would not believe! I finished reading The Boy in the Striped Pajamas right before reading Open Heart, so I was already emotional. Elie Wiesel’s death popped up in my Facebook memories a little while ago and all the criticism and attacks made me angry and nauseous all over again. So, reading Open Heart again was actually more meaningful and emotional for me than the first time I read it.
I’m a strong believer in historical education, especially Holocaust education; reading how Mr. Wiesel questioned his teaching and writing, the information he conveyed, whether or not he said too much, killed me! His impact on the world should never be questioned or dismissed, and yet when he believed he might die, he did just that. I just wanted to cry . . . which I’ll admit, I did.
Another thing that struck me, was the idea that he acted like this was his first brush with death. Some would probably say that sounds ridiculous, considering everything he survived as a young kid; I found it refreshing and inspiring. He said that, in the Jewish tradition, he tried to live and focus on life and not death.
This book shows the mind of an inspirational, unselfish, and brilliant man and causes us to think about many things that either never occurred to us, or that we would rather not think about at all. Overall, I think everyone should read this book, especially now that Mr. Wiesel and many other Holocaust survivors have passed away. It’s encouraging, informative, emotional, heartbreaking, and inspiring all at the same time!