The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen. 4 out of 5. This novel tells of a modern day Jewish teenager, Hannah, who doesn't really comprehend or respect her heritage. Hannah ends up "time travelling" unknowingly, and arrives in a small Jewish town in 1942. She's able to view first-hand some of her elderly relatives during their youth. And then, the devastation of the 1940's occurs. Hannah and the entire Jewish village are taken to a Nazi concentration camp. I've read many teen-lit Holocaust related novels. I appreciated this novel's description of the families being shoved into the train cars like cattle...barely able to breathe, and some dying en route to the camps because they were overcrowded on the railway cars. This novel made the horror of the Holocaust real, but at a level my 8th graders could comprehend and respect. There is a particularly gut-wrenching scene in the novel where some men (who tried to escape) are executed in front of the entire camp. A woman leaves her spot in the line of prisoners to run to her beloved who is about to be executed...of course she ends up being shot as well. However, she made the choice: to die with her love, instead of living in Hell-on-Earth without him. I liked the way the author differentiated between "Hannah" the modern day teen and "Chaya" her 1942 persona. I don't want to ruin any more plot details----but I will say that the description near the end of the novel of what "The Devil's Arithmetic" means is a fitting depiction of the horror of the Holocaust.
The Film: On a side note, I also viewed "The Devil's Arithmetic" film, staring Kirsten Dunst. I thought the film did a better job portraying Hannah's difficulty understanding the Holocaust as a modern teen, than the novel did. However, the bulk of the book---the wonderful characters of Gitl and Shmuel (Hannah's aunt and uncle whom she stays with after "landing in" 1942) were not even in the film! In addition, my favorite part---the gut wrenching part I mentioned earlier, wherein Fayge leaves the camp to die with her love---this part didn't make the movie either. Overall, it was a good film for teens to understand the Holocaust. However, for adults..."Life is Beautiful" or "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" are better in my opinion.
City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare This sequel to the City of Bones book I read in April was a good read. I'd give it a 3 out of 5. I enjoyed the continued journey of Clary, as she learned more about her Shadowhunter abilities. Clary's imperfection made her interesting. However, the book contained an incestuous relationship (no sex, just kissing!) throughout the book that makes it an especially intriguing read. I wanted to find out what happened---would the characters "hook up," or would they decide not to pursue their relationship...
City of Glass by Cassandra Clare. 5 out of 5. The last book in the "Mortal Instruments Trilogy" was my favorite of the 3. The question of whether or not Clary and Jace's relationship is or isn't incestuous is answered. There is a final battle between Valentine and the Shadowhunters. Much of the book describes the big decision as to if the werewolves, vampires, and other "underworlders" will be permitted to help in the battle against Valentine. I stayed up late reading to reach the conclusion of this book, and I was not disappointed! Great action scenes. Steamy romance. I was pleased with the conclusion and happy with the way things turned out for the major characters. Great read!
Twilight: Director's Notebook: The Story of How We Made the Movie Based on the Novel by Stephenie Meyer by Catherine Hardwicke 4 out of 5. Neat book that contains photos of on-set and behind-the-scenes items used in the filming of the "Twilight" movie. I especially enjoyed the way Hardwicke explained the way different shots were arranged. I also got a kick out of the 2-page layout showing photos and explanations of all the items she carried around with her daily on the set. Fun read for any fan of the film. :)
Because I Said So by Dawn Meehan. 4 out of 5. I LOVE Dawn's Blog about her life as a very busy stay-at-home-mom of 6 children. Her blog is realistic, yet has much humor. When I learned she had written a book about parenting, I jumped on the bandwagon. It was a fun book full of vignettes of her motherhood experiences. The humor I love from her blog was prevalent throughout the book. A fun read!
Dragon's Bait by Vivian Vande Velde 4 out of 5. My mom introduced me to the Vande Velde books at her Ohio library last summer. I've been hooked ever since. This teen lit author gets right to the fast-paced action and doesn't disappoint! Dragon's Bait is about a teenage girl who is accused of being a witch. Rather than drowning her or burning her at the stake, her fellow villagers decide to leave her on a mountaintop as bait for a dragon. However, the girl ends up befriending the dragon. The rest of the book depicts her turmoil as she faces decisions regarding whether or not she wants the dragon to help her seek revenge against the village. Great story!
Summer will be here soon....happy reading one and all! :)
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