Author Jane Yolen has won so many awards in so many genres that it is impossible to list them all in a succinct way. Her latest book, Mapping the Bones, will probably be added to her list of award-winning titles because it is just that good. It is also her 365th book, which means you can read a Yolen book each day of the year, and if Mapping the Bones is your first brush with the prolific author, it likely won’t be your last.
Loosely framed around the folk tale “Hansel and Gretel,” Mapping the Bones follows the story of Chaim and Gittel, 14-year-old Jewish twins living in Poland during the Nazi invasion. The twins and their parents are first moved from their comfortable life in Łódź to a five-room apartment in the Jewish ghetto, and then make an escape attempt when they are scheduled to be sent to the concentration camps. The two children almost make it to the Russian border before they are caught and sent to one of the many child labor camps run by the Nazis during the war.
While the majority of this story is told in third person from Chaim’s perspective, the chapters are interspersed with first person “Gittel Remembers” passages, allowing the reader to experience the events through each twin. As to be expected, Yolen’s prose easily draws you in and her character building is impeccable. Like her award-winning The Devil’s Arithmetic and her other blend of fairy tale and Holocaust history, Briar Rose, this latest of her great books will become an essential addition to the genre.
Jennifer Bruer Kitchel is the librarian for a Pre-K through 8th level Catholic school.