A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Daniel's Story is a historical novel about a German Jewish teen boy who's sent to a series of Nazi concentrations camps in World War II. Kids who love historical fiction may enjoy this book, but the narrative doesn't do its subject justice. However, it does have a message of hope, as Daniel holds on to his belief that most people are good at heart. The book was written to complement a photography exhibit at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
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What's the story?
A 14-year-old Jewish boy is uprooted from his comfortable life in Frankfurt, Germany, and sent to live in a series of concentration camps. Daniel witnesses countless atrocities, some so horrifying he cannot even describe them to the reader. He joins the underground resistance and is able to preserve a little hope for his people's future. By the end of the book, most of Daniel's family has been murdered, but he has survived and is thankful for what little he has left. His faith in humanity has been badly shaken, but not destroyed. The novel examines the great evil -- as well as the great good -- of which human beings are capable.
Is it any good?
Author Carol Matas's approach is interesting but doesn't do justice to the subject matter. Constant references to photographs are intrusive but necessary, as the book was written to complement a photography exhibit at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Ironically, this device fails. The narrative is also weak and sketchy, offering no depth to Daniel's character, or anyone else's, and abrupt time-frame shifts may confuse readers.
Matas' gift lies in her ability to accurately portray the senselessness of the Holocaust. She doesn't sugarcoat the details, yet the book never becomes too horrifying for young readers. Matas repeatedly emphasizes that people must have a basic level of respect for each other. Throughout the book, Daniel struggles to maintain the belief that most people are good at heart, and, ultimately, he retains this conviction.
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