Hannah is a young Jewish girl who is bored with the seemingly pointless traditions of her heritage and the ranting and raving of her Holocaust survivor relatives. During the Passover Seder, she is asked to open the door for Elijah the Prophet and finds herself transported to a small Polish village in the 1940′s.
Now known as Chaya, she is overwhelmed by the change in setting and wonders if her memories of a modern world are real or just a forgotten dream. At a wedding ceremony, the entire village is rounded up by Nazis and Hannah remembers the terrible things that are about to happen to the Jewish villagers.
Despite her pleas and protests, history continues to unfold in the same way and the journey of the villagers and Hannah to a concentration camp is described in vivid detail. Hannah is forced to experience the harsh conditions and inhumane treatment that her older relatives had described to her a lifetime ago. At the novel’s grim climax, Hannah finally understands the importance of sacrifice, and subsequently, of remembering the horrible events of the past.
Although the subject matter is heavy, this is a great book for introducing young readers to the Holocaust. It is accurate in its details, seemingly derived from Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz (AKA, Is This a Man?) and other sources. Yolen’s narrative structure is very well-suited toward drawing in readers who might not be interested in the subject.
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