Chaim and Gittel are 14 year old twins who must endure unbearable hardships during the Holocaust. In 1942 Poland, the Abromowitz family is forced to share an apartment with another family who are less than hospitable. Though the other family is hard to deal with, the Abromowitz family cannot leave them behind especially when the father goes missing. Chaim must overcome his fear to sell his mother's engagement ring to get the money to leave the ghetto before they are all deported to a concentration camp. They make a plan to go through the forest, but not everyone makes it through. When, Chaim and Gittel meet up in the forest, they have hard choices to make about who they will be able to trust. Needless to say, they met more horrible people including Dr. Mengele who wants to perform awful experiments on them. How will they survive? But, they must survive.
I have to admit. This story was hard to read. Stories about the Holocaust are hard to read. The atrocities seem unbelievable. But, that is the EXACT reason that I must read them and share them with as many people as I can. They happened. If they happened due to hate and ignorance and bystanders looking the other way, then it could happen again if we do not do something. This story will not be an easy one to read. You will be disgusted by the awful part of humanity that reared its head during this time in history. But, Yolen is able to weave in glimmers of hope as well. Chaim is a poet, and she adds that piece to the story which shows how important poetry can be to help people express themselves and the thoughts of a group of people.
After writing The Devil's Arithmetic over 30 years ago, Yolen said that she would not write another Holocaust story. It took her 4 years to write this one. But, she did it because this story is one that needed telling. Being her 365th or 366th book (because she had 2 drop on the same day), you need to read it. Hear what Chaim and Gittel have to say.