Mapping the Bones by Jane Yolen
What’s it about: It’s 1942 in Poland, and the world is coming to pieces. At least that’s how it seems to Chaim and Gittel, twins whose lives feel like a fairy tale torn apart, with evil witches, forbidden forests, and dangerous ovens looming on the horizon. But in all darkness there is light, and the twins find it through Chaim’s poetry and the love they have for each other. Like the bright flame of a Yahrzeit candle, his words become a beacon of memory so that the children and grandchildren of survivors will never forget the atrocities that happened during the Holocaust.
Andrea’s thoughts: I read and loved Jane Yolen’s book Briar Rose, a Sleeping Beauty retelling set during the Holocaust. When I saw this book, a Hansel and Gretel retelling also set during the Holocaust, I knew that I had to read it. Suspenseful, hopeful, and tragic are just some of the words that I would use to describe this book. Chaim and Gittel’s journey from a Polish Ghetto through the forest with Polish resistance fighters to finally be caught and sent to a Nazi labor camp was, at times, hard to read. The book switches back and forth between Chaim’s perspective at the time of the event and Gittel’s recollection as a grown woman. Chaim’s poetry is also dispersed throughout the book as he takes on the responsibility of bearing witness to the struggles and atrocities he and others face. The parallels between this story and Hansel and Gretel is very subtle at first but become more obvious as the story settles at the Nazi labor camp. This was a beautifully written book that, although fiction, could be based on the real stories of millions of people. I would recommend this book to fans of historical fiction and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.