12-year-old Hannah is apathetic and embarrassed by her grandfather's rantings about the Nazis. She knows that her grandfather and grand aunt are survivors from a Nazi concentration camp, but in typical tween fashion, their stories are just white noise and not important to her. However, during a Passover Seder, Hannah is chosen to open the door to the prophet Elijah, and she is transported into Poland in the 1940's as a young girl named Chaya. As Chaya, she is taken to a concentration camp and must live through the terror of trying to survive, and ultimately die in the camp.
I think that Ms. Yolen does a great job of bringing the horrors of the holocaust to the tween reader. The tension of Hannah's struggle to survive at camp, as well as the heartbreak as she begins to lose the part of her that is Hannah is balanced off by the twist at the end that ensures that Hannah will never be apathetic toward her family's history again.
Book pairings: if they like this book, what do you give them next?
Number the Stars by Jane Yolen (same reading level)
Maus: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman (graphic YA novel)
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
The Watsons go to Birmingham -- 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez
Ages 9-12/176 pages/Puffin (2004)/creative nonfiction/source: Hilo Public Library