The Whirlwind

The Whirlwind

by Carol Matas

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Ben flees Nazi Germany only to find himself in a battle for his life and his soul.See more details below


Ben flees Nazi Germany only to find himself in a battle for his life and his soul.

Editorial Reviews

"Confronts a shameful part of World War II history—American's prejudice against German Jewish refugees. ...Effectively moves from fury and blame to understanding and love."
CM Magazine
"An excellent example of Holocaust literature for young adults...Whether read as an action/adventure novel or as a gateway to learning about a boy's first-hand experiences in World War II. Highly Recommended."
Resource Links
"Matas does a good job of compressing a complex story into not very many pages...Every library that caters to junior high readers show know about this book."
Globe & Mail
"An issues novel as well as an historical one and the issues aren't easy...A timely look at the treatment of foreign nationals...Aims to be easily accessible."
Jewish Book World
"Another winner from the talented Matas."
Atlanta Jewish Times
"Teaches an underlying message of tolerance and acceptance through a friendship rare for its time...A well-written, easy read for any level."
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"A quiet examination of one boy's struggle to understand the terrible circumstances that have fallen on his family."
AJL Newsletter
"Written in an engaging style...the novel introduces well-developed characters faced with compelling issues."
Kid Lit
"Part an adventure story, part a story of descent into obsession [it] is also very much a simplified but sophisticated debate on religion and ethics...The Whirlwind attempts a lot and accomplishes a lot."
The Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books
A quiet examination of one boy's struggle to understand the terrible circumstances that have fallen on his family.
Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
Matas (The War Within, and In My Enemy's House) taps the history of wartime prejudice in the story of young Ben Friedman, who has fled Germany with his family after Kristalnacht, leaving his grandparents behind. Arriving in Seattle in 1941, he makes friends with John Ogawa, and manages to cope with bullies in school, uncertainty at home, and his own anger against his father. When John and his family are sent away to an internment camp, Ben thinks he is seeing familiar, terrifying patterns. As a rock through a window and a hateful sign ("Germans Go Home") begin to remind Ben of the horrors the family has fled, the reader also becomes aware of the easily fostered links between suspicion and discrimination, fear and prejudice. Ben runs away, hoping to find safety in Canada. There, he meets up with his Uncle Isaac, on the run from police for minor infractions of the law, and he realizes that no place is free from intolerance and suspicion. At the same time, he cannot bear to confront what has happened to John and his family. A few threads seem incompletely realized, such as Ben's relationship with his friend Elizabeth, and the resulting efforts he makes to translate the Book of Job never quite feel earned. Some moments are transcendent in their clarity, such as the brief, frightening dream sequence Ben experiences when he is crossing back from Canada with his father and Uncle Isaac and its reversal in the vision he sees in the Ogawas' deserted house. When Ben is finally able to write to John, it is a realistic opening of the door to his own personal growth. This is an interesting and thought-provoking view of war, hatred, and the transformation of fear into understanding.
KLIATT - Marissa Elliott
The Whirlwind chronicles the story of a young boy struggling to live in a world fraught with danger and uncertainty. Fourteen-year-old Ben Friedman longs for a place where he can be safe, where he can forget and truly be free of the horrors he left behind when his family escaped Nazi Germany. Everyone has told him that it will be different in America, that he will have rights and that these rights will protect him. But when Pearl Harbor is attacked, fear reigns and living on American soil is no longer a guarantee of safety. Japanese are rounded up and taken to camps. Ben fears it will only be a matter of time before they come for him and his family. The weeks pass and school becomes less bearable. He is hated for being Jewish, distrusted for being German. There is no place to hide, nowhere to run, nowhere he can find that coveted sense of security. And yet, Ben eventually finds peace. He finds it even though nothing has changed, even though he has no answers. He decides to stop running, literally and figuratively, and accept life for what it is. This story is a poignant look at what it means to come of age in a world of uncertainty, in a world without guarantees. We can fight it, argue with it, hate it, live in fear, or we can accept it and be glad for the moments that we have. It's not that the lessons gleaned from this novel will be brand-new revelations; but Matas places vital, universal truths about life within a historical context, adhering to reality without being overly graphic, which makes this novel an excellent choice for teachers. A class will learn about the Holocaust and Japanese internment camps though the eyes of a strong, lovable character to whom they can easilyrelate. It is the kind of book adults and adolescents alike will be glad to have read, a reminder that despite it all, life can be unspeakably beautiful.
School Library Journal

Gr 6 & Up - Benjamin Friedman, a 15-year-old Jewish boy, fears for his life in Nazi Germany. Fortunately, his family is able to escape Hitler, arriving in Seattle in the summer of 1941. Ben is relieved to be there but is upset and confused by his experiences. He blames his father for not taking action earlier as well as for his inability to secure American visas for the boy's grandparents. The teen tries to settle into his new life but faces bullying because he is German. He is afraid for John, his Japanese-American classmate, and tries to convince his friend and his own family that America is not safe and that they must flee to Canada. No one understands Ben's concerns-they believe he is ill-and this only makes him more determined to take matters into his own hands. After John's family is sent to an internment camp and the Friedmans' house is attacked, Ben runs away to Canada. It is not the safe haven he imagined, and he realizes that perhaps he was mistaken about many things. This unique and thought-provoking story shows what prejudice and indifference to suffering and wrongdoing can lead to. It imparts an understanding of the Holocaust and World War II without the explicitness present in other books on the subject.-Donna Rosenblum, Nassau Boces School Library System, NY

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

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Product Details

Orca Book Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
New Edition
Product dimensions:
4.25(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
12 - 18 Years

Meet the Author

Carol Matas is an internationally acclaimed author of over thirty-five novels for children and young adults. Her best-selling work, which includes three award-winning series, has been translated into Spanish, Japanese, Taiwanese, Turkish, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, German, French, Indonesian and Russian.

A graduate of the Actor's Lab, in London England, Carol first earned a B.A. (English) from The University of Western Ontario. Her teaching experience includes Artists in the School, Manitoba Arts Council;visiting professor at Bemidji State University, Minnesota; and a Creative Writing instructor, Continuing Education Division, The University of Winnipeg. Carol is an inspiring and passionate speaker who is frequently invited to address children and adults alike across North America.

Carol writes contemporary and historical fiction, as well as science fiction and fantasy. She first began writing historical fiction when her Danish husband told her stories about his parents' experiences fighting the Nazis in World War II. She has often written about Jewish themes, and is well known for her books concerning the Holocaust, writing Daniel's Story at the request of The United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Over the years, her knack for successfully infusing serious and thought-provoking issues into an action-driven format has kept readers of all ages engaged.

The list of awards for her books is long, and includes two Sydney Taylor awards, The Geoffrey Bilson award, a Silver Birch award, The Jewish Book Award, as well as the inclusion of her books on many honour lists, such as the ALA notable list, The New York Times Review notable list, The New York Public Library list for the Teen Age, and the Voya books in the middle, Best Book list. She has also been nominated for the Governor General Award twice.

More information is about Carol is available on her web site:

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Read an Excerpt

The front window had been shattered by a huge rock that was now lying on the floor of the store. Father ran outside. I followed. A banner was hanging from the door...In large, red, hand-painted letters were the words:

Germans go home.

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