Young Adult Fiction--Yep to Zussks
Yep, Laurence. Hiroshima (Scholastic Paperbacks, 1996).
In quiet, simple prose, Yep tells what happens when the atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. He tells it in short chapters in the present tense, switching from crewmen on the Enola Gay to children in a Hiroshima classroom; then he describes the attack, the mushroom cloud, and the destruction of the city; finally, he talks about the aftermath, immediate and long term, including the arms race and the movement for peace. One chapter explains the physics of the explosion and of radiation. The facts are so dramatic and told with such controlled intensity that we barely need the spare fictionalization about a young Hiroshima child who is there when the bomb falls and who later comes to the U.S. for treatment (Yep says in an afterword that she's a composite of several children). The account is fair and totally devastating. Though accessible to middle-grade readers, this will also interest older readers, who will find nothing condescending in content or format. Fifty years later, the event is still the focus of furious controversy (even the numbers are in dispute), and this novella will start classroom discussion across the curriculum. There's a bibliography for further reading. (Hazel Rochman for Booklist)
Jane Yolen. The Devil's Arithmetic (Puffin, 2004).
A time travel novel that finds a 12-year-old Jewish girl tired of hearing the same family stories over and over again transported from her home in New York to a Polish village in 1942. She knows the history of the Holocaust and the fate of the Jews, but she cannot convince the Jews of the village to run when they encounter Nazis who tell them that they must relocate. Though targeting middle grade readers, the book gives readers of all ages a detailed description of life in the concentration camps and emphasizes the importance of remembering.
Zapruder, Alexandra (Editor). Salvaged Pages: Young Writers` Diaries of the Holocaust (Yale University Press, 2004).
For the millions who read The Diary of Anne Frank (1952), this collection of 14 Holocaust diaries by young people from all over Europe will extend the history beyond Anne's attic walls. Scholars will want this volume--editor Zapruder's research is meticulous, drawing on archives and museums across the world--but the intensely personal voices of these young people who record the unimaginable will also draw a general audience. In her clear overview and introductions to each diary, Zapruder gives historical context and biography and decries any message of consolation or redemption, pointing out that these stark narratives banish forever the stereotypes of sweet victim, beneficent rescuer, and unfeeling bystander; instead, they suggest the immense complexity of ordinary people. Some writers are dull; some write with heartbreaking power. One diarist focuses on hunger: he's absolutely obsessed with food. Another's anguish is the loneliness, the separation; she cannot forget having to leave her grandmother in the street. The places range from the Czech forests and the Lodz ghetto to Auschwitz and the horrific scenes at liberation. (Hazel Rochman for Booklist)
Zindel, Paul. The Gadget (Laurel Leaf, 2003).
Near the end of World War II, scientists in Los Alamos, New Mexico, are working on a project that will alter the fate of the world. Thirteen-year-old Stephen Orr is living at a top secret military base with his father, a leading physicist, building the atomic bomb. Stephen realizes the dangers involved when one of the scientists becomes hospitalized as a result of working with the project. The scientist alerts him to disasters that could come from The Gadget. Stephen feels it is up to him and his friend Tilanov to find the answers that lie behind this veil of secrecy.
Zullo, Allan and Mara Bovsun. Survivors: True Stories of Children in the Holocaust (Scholastic Paperbacks, 2005).
These are the true-life accounts of nine Jewish boys and girls whose lives spiraled into danger and fear as the Holocaust overtook Europe. In a time of great horror, these children each found a way to make it through the nightmare of war. Some made daring escapes into the unknown, others disguised their true identities, and many witnessed unimaginable horrors. But what they all shared was the unshakable belief in—and hope for—survival.
Zussks, Markus. The Book Thief (The Bodley Head, 2007).
Zusak has created a work that deserves the attention of sophisticated teen and adult readers. Death himself narrates the World War II-era story of Liesel Meminger from the time she is taken, at age nine, to live in Molching, Germany, with a foster family in a working-class neighborhood of tough kids, acid-tongued mothers, and loving fathers who earn their living by the work of their hands. The child arrives having just stolen her first book–although she has not yet learned how to read–and her foster father uses it, The Gravediggers Handbook, to lull her to sleep when shes roused by regular nightmares about her younger brothers death. Across the ensuing years of the late 1930s and into the 1940s, Liesel collects more stolen books as well as a peculiar set of friends: the boy Rudy, the Jewish refugee Max, the mayors reclusive wife (who has a whole library from which she allows Liesel to steal), and especially her foster parents. Zusak not only creates a mesmerizing and original story but also writes with poetic syntax, causing readers to deliberate over phrases and lines, even as the action impels them forward. Death is not a sentimental storyteller, but he does attend to an array of satisfying details, giving Liesels’ story all the nuances of chance, folly, and fulfilled expectation that it deserves.