Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The Holocaust was so monstrous a crime that the mind resists belief and the story must be made new for each individual. Yolen's book is about remembering. During a Passover Seder, 12-year-old Hannah finds herself transported from America in 1988 to Poland in 1942, where she assumes the life of young Chaya. Within days the Nazis take Chaya and her neighbors off to a concentration camp, mere components in the death factory. As days pass, Hannah's own memory of her past, and the prisoners' future, fades until she is Chaya completely. Chaya/Hannah's final sacrifice, and the return of memory, is her victory over the horror. The book's simplicity is its strength; no comment is needed because the facts speak for themselves. This brave and powerful book has much it can teach a young audience. Ages 10-14. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Betty Hicks
Originally published in 1988, this award-winning novel about the Holocaust continues to have significance and appeal. Twelve-year-old Hannah is weary of observing Jewish holidays because she's "tired of remembering." During the Passover Seder, she finds herself mysteriously transported back to Nazi-occupied Poland in 1942. Her memories of 1990's America gradually fade, replaced by the horrors of her life in a concentration camp. Yolen depicts the harsh realities honestly, but compassionately, in this unforgettable story about survival, friendship, and remembering. Today's readers, increasingly dealing with issues of violence and prejudice, will especially value the learned skills Hannah utilizes to live with day to day hardship. This story does more than just remember the victims; it honors the survivors, and reminds that even in the midst of unspeakable sorrow, "the swallows still sing around the smokestacks." 1990 (orig.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 4-8 In this novel, Yolen attempts to answer those who question why the Holocaust should be remembered. Hannah, 12, is tired of remembering, and is embarrassed by her grandfather, who rants and raves at the mention of the Nazis. Her mother's explanations of how her grandparents and great-aunt lost all family and friends during that time have little effect. Then, during a Passover Seder, Hannah is chosen to open the door to welcome the prophet Elijah. As she does so, she is transported to a village in Poland in the 1940s, where everyone thinks that she is Chaya, who has just recovered from a serious illness. She is captured by the Nazis and taken to a death camp, where she is befriended by a young girl named Rivka, who teaches her how to fight the dehumanizing processes of the camp and hold onto her identity. When at last their luck runs out and Rivka is chosen, Hannah/Chaya, in an almost impulsive act of self-sacrifice, goes in her stead. As the door to the gas chamber closes behind her, she is returned to the door of her grandparents' apartment, waiting for Elijah. Through Hannah, with her memories of the present and the past, Yolen does a fine job of illustrating the importance of remembering. She adds much to children's understanding of the effects of the Holocaust, which will reverberate throughout history, today and tomorrow. Susan M. Harding, Mesquite Public Library, Tex.