Books by Carol Matas

Who Am I? by Carol Matas
Released: Sept. 24, 2016

"Hitchcock-ian fun, full of deep questions to ponder. "
A strong teenage girl aims to find out the bizarre truth about her childhood in this suspenseful YA novel. Read full book review >
THE EDGE OF WHEN by Carol Matas
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 1, 2012

"A thought-provoking and entertaining time-travel tale with a useful, even hopeful, message about personal responsibility. (Science fiction. 10-15)"
Published 30 years ago as a three-volume series, this effort is an updated version combined into a single novel. Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 2001

Presented as the first-person diary of Hannah Green, 13, during the months of December and January 1862-63, a recounting of what happens to the only Jewish family in Holly Springs, Mississippi, when they were forced to leave. Ulysses Grant, preparing for the second siege of Vicksburg, issued General Order #11, which evacuated Jews from the territory under his command because he wrongly considered all to be profiteers. (President Lincoln soon overturned the order.) As the family, which supports the cause of the Confederacy and also holds slaves, flees, Hannah begins to comprehend that Jews are being treated in the same way as African-Americans and she starts to develop some understanding and sympathy for those to whom she had always felt superior. But Matas's work of historical fiction doesn't read like the diary of a girl; rather, it is the work of an author who never finds the right voice for the cardboard characters, especially the unsympathetic Hannah (who endlessly reminds the reader that she is a "Southern lady") and some of the stereotyped "Yankees" and "Rebs." Although the history is accurate, the book is turgid and off-putting. (Historical fiction. 10-14)Read full book review >
OF TWO MINDS by Carol Matas
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

A strong joint effort by Matas (The Burning Time, 1994, etc.) and Nodelman (The Same Place But Different, p. 784, etc.). Headstrong, independent Lenora is endowed with the gift of giving life to her imaginings, but somehow she is unable to imagine away her arranged marriage to staid mind-reader Coren. When she spies a fantasy land beckoning to her on her wedding day, she recklessly jumps in—unaware that Coren is right behind her. The two end up without their powers in a brave new world ruled over by the charismatic (and devastatingly handsome) Hevak. At first Lenora seems perfectly content with the loss of her powers—more than made up for by Hevak's attentions—but when she finally asserts herself, Hevak has her thrown into the dungeons, where she is reunited with Coren. Together, Lenora and Coren destroy Hevak—whose true identity provides a neat twist—and return to their own world where they decide to postpone the wedding and just date. The collaboration offers no added dimension to the book; the authors' voices meld coherently and well. The result is a solid fantasy about thinking for oneself, thinking other people's thoughts, and the power of imagination. (Fiction. 10-14) Read full book review >
THE BURNING TIME by Carol Matas
FANTASY
Released: Oct. 1, 1994

Matas (Daniel's Story, 1993, etc.) depicts the persecution of women accused of witchcraft in a 16th-century French village. When a witch-hunter with full power to condemn arrives, Rose's mother, Suzanne, is the first suspect. She's a healer who has earned the local doctor's enmity by saving the countess in childbirth. Rose's father, whose mercantile prosperity has aroused his peasant neighbors' envy, has just died in a fall from a horse and his pretty, independent widow has rejected sexual overtures from both her brother-in-law, who covets her inheritance, and the parish priest. After Suzanne is imprisoned, Rose (with the help of a friend at the castle) secretly visits her cell. Forced to hide in another room before she can leave, she witnesses Suzanne's torture and confession; later, accused herself, Rose returns with a suicide potion for her doomed mother, then escapes. The historical injustice resonates, but Matas's earnest dramatization is sabotaged by an excess of unlikely contrivances; and though her details are plausible, there are too few particulars to make the milieu more than generically medieval, while the focus on Suzanne's torment borders on sensationalism. (Fiction. 12-16) Read full book review >
DANIEL'S STORY by Carol Matas
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 1993

After witnessing the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany, Daniel is suddenly transported, at age 14, from his comfortable life in Frankfurt to a Polish ghetto, then to Auschwitz and Buchenwald—losing most of his family along the way, seeing Nazi brutality of both the casual and the calculated kind, and recording atrocities with a smuggled camera (``What has happened to me?...Who am I? Where am I going?''). Matas, explicating an exhibit of photos and other materials at the new United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, creates a convincing composite youth and experience—fictional but carefully based on survivors' accounts. It's a savage story with no attempt to soften the culpability of the German people; Daniel's profound anger is easier to understand than is his father's compassion or his sister's plea to ``chose love. Always choose love.'' Daniel survives to be reunited, after the war, with his wife-to-be, but his dying friend's last word echoes beyond the happy ending: ``Remember...'' An unusual undertaking, effectively carried out. Chronology; glossary. (Fiction. 11-14) Read full book review >
SWORN ENEMIES by Carol Matas
FICTION
Released: Feb. 1, 1993

The author of Lisa's War (1989) turns to a another grim chapter in Jewish history: the kidnapping and forced conversion of Jewish boys by the Russian Czar's army in the 19th century. Her carefully researched story is told, in alternation, by two young men. Aaron, 16, the highly respected best student at Odessa's yeshiva, is soon to be married; though carefully observant, and knowing it's forbidden, he is secretly meeting his betrothed (innocently—they debate subjects like Job). After one tryst, he is kidnapped by Zev, a vengeful former classmate who's jealous of Aaron's brilliance and prospects. Zev is also observant, but he's been brutalized by abuse; without a qualm, he sends Aaron into the horror—and almost certain death—of the army. Starved, beaten, humiliated, and driven without respite, Aaron is one of the few survivors in his original group, but- -after careful reasoning about God's commands—submits to baptism to save his life. Zev, too, is caught; ironically, he contrives to avoid conversion. With two friends, Aaron plots escape, only to be caught by Zev, who ends by coming with them—and betraying Aaron yet again. Vicious and unrepentant, Zev is more than a foil for Aaron's moral struggle against a hatred that can only destroy him too; he is chillingly believable. To her credit, Matas offers them no reconciliation; and conscientious Aaron knows that he also bears some guilt for what has passed between them. A harrowing, thought-provoking, skillfully written novel about a past whose evil legacy persists. (Fiction. YA) Read full book review >
CODE NAME KRIS by Carol Matas
Released: Oct. 30, 1990

In a strong sequel to Lisa's War (1989), Jesper continues his activities with the Danish resistance after Lisa and her brother Stefan depart in 1943 with the other Jewish refugees. Chiefly, he's involved in putting out an underground newspaper, and—especially after Stefan's eventual return—he also engages again in hair-raising acts of sabotage. From its opening ("I am to be executed": Jesper has been caught and tortured by the Gestapo, and relates his adventures from prison), this is a gripping story that includes a fascinating range of resistance activities and coherently relates them to events in the war and the way Danish society evolved under the Nazis. While it doesn't offer new insights, the earlier story's themes are powerfully reiterated: in the end, Jesper recoils from the hate and violence the Nazis have elicited from him. And Matas skillfully holds attention by leaving the reader to wonder until the end whether Jesper will survive and by introducing a Danish member of the Gestapo who may or may not be a double agent. Fine historical fiction. Read full book review >

Based on experiences of the author's family in Denmark during WW Il, the story of Lisa's involvement with the Danish resistance and her family's 1943 escape to Sweden with Denmark's other Jews. After the Nazis' peaceful takeover in 1940, some Danes—even Jews—believe that cooperation will avoid problems. But Lisa's family, aware through Radio Free Denmark of what is actually going on, never doubt the enemy's real intentions. Lisa's brother Stephan, 14, is immediately involved with the resistance; Lisa, at 12, is soon distributing flyers—ironically discovering that her tendency to throw up under tension has its uses when confronted by inquisitive Nazis. Even their father, a dedicated physician, decides to sabotage the enemy when he treats them. As the Danes cope in their usual efficient way, events move quietly—so that when an atrocity does occur (the Nazis retaliate for resistance activity by gunning down staff and patient in the operating room), it has, by contrast, unusual impact. In a few carefully chosen incidents, Stephan's and Lisa's involvement grows more serious—they help to blow up a factory, carry guns, shoot to kill; and, in an exciting conclusion, they play crucial roles in the Rosh Hashana escape. An honest, riveting depiction of a period in which Danes can take pride—though even here, as Matas makes clear (as Lowry does not, in her book for younger children, above), not everyone behaved nobly—and even the heroic pay a price when they learn to take vengeance without remorse. Read full book review >