Sworn Enemies

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Overview

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Aaron and Zev have been protected from serving in the czar's army for very different reasons--Aaron's father pays to keep his scholarly son free and Zev works as a khapper, kidnapping other poor, young Jewish boys to fulfill the czar's army quotas. Zev's jealousy of Aaron turns to hate when he discovers that Miriam, the girl he loves, will be Aaron's future wife. Zev decides to rid himself of Aaron forever by turning him over to the czar's army, where ...

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Overview

Book description change:

Aaron and Zev have been protected from serving in the czar's army for very different reasons--Aaron's father pays to keep his scholarly son free and Zev works as a khapper, kidnapping other poor, young Jewish boys to fulfill the czar's army quotas. Zev's jealousy of Aaron turns to hate when he discovers that Miriam, the girl he loves, will be Aaron's future wife. Zev decides to rid himself of Aaron forever by turning him over to the czar's army, where few survive the forced labor. In this powerful novel set in the reign of Nicholas I in Russia, Carol Matas explores the complex issues of betrayal, faith and forgiveness. Winner of The Sydney Taylor Award, New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age, Canadian Library Association Notable book, Notable Children's Trade Book in the field of Social Studies by NCSS, U.S.

In nineteenth-century Russia, betrayed by a fellow Jew, sixteen-year-old Aaron is taken by officers of the Czar and forced into military service.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Despite some heavy-handed storytelling, Matas ( Lisa's War ) fashions a gripping novel out of an overlooked chapter of history. It's the mid-19th century, and the czar has ordered that a fixed number of Jewish boys be drafted for a 25-year stint in the army--unlike other Russians, however, Jewish boys can be conscripted when only 12 years old in order to be ``prepared'' for military service. Aaron, the 16-year-old star of his Odessa yeshiva, has been spared this trial, but his arch-enemy, Zev, kidnaps him and turns him over to the soldiers. Aaron's faith and his learning are put to the test when he and even younger, more vulnerable ``recruits'' are made to choose between conversion and certain death. Allowing Aaron to narrate his part of the story, Matas conveys her hero's desperation and anguish. But when she alternates his voice with that of Zev, she falters. Zev's hatred of Aaron becomes less and less credible, especially when he suffers the same fate as Aaron; by the end Zev is virtually evil incarnate. The otherwise viable characters, urgent pacing and carefully wrought setting, however, amply compensate, and ensure that Matas's subject here will not be easily forgotten. Ages 12-up. (Feb.)
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9-- Set in Czarist Russia in 1851, this novel addresses the issue of forced conscription into the army. According to the introduction, Jewish children were recruited at the age of 12 in preparation for military service, but conversion to Christianity was the primary goal; this was accomplished by both physical and emotional torture. In alternating chapters, Aaron and Zev the ``sworn enemies'' of the title offer their first-person narrations. Aaron, a brilliant Yeshiva student, is captured by Zev, who is working to fulfill the town's military quota. Through a series of quirks and mishaps, Zev ends up in the same battalion. The two escape from the army in a manner that strains credibility; they remain enemies to the end. In this historical adventure, the one-dimensional characters are entirely predictable in actions and thoughts. A good deal of melodramatic soul-searching takes place; unanswerable questions are posed and pondered. Average readers are unlikely to understand the nuances of Orthodox Jewish belief and observance described, making this book more suitable for those with some familiarity with such customs. --Susan Kaminow, Arlington County Public Library, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780988070394
  • Publisher: Starburst Digital Rights International inc.
  • Publication date: 2/27/2014
  • Pages: 122
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.29 (d)

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