There is no "sugar coating" for this fairy tale retelling with a Holocaust backdrop.


In 1942, twins Chaim and Gittel and their parents were forced to move into the Lodz Ghetto in Poland. There, they meet Bruno and Sophie Norenberg. As conditions continue to deteriorate, the twins' parents plan an escape to Lagiewniki Forest, where Jews are being taken to freedom in Russia. The four children make it to the forest, with a promise that their parents will join them later. Except the group is attacked by the Germans and the stewards are killed. The children were taken prisoner and sent to the Sobanek concentration camp. There, Chaim, Gittel, Bruno, and Sophie have to learn to survive in the midst of a war and genocide.

BTSYA / Teen Reader (16):
I always find interesting books based on the Holocaust and with this book, it’s no different. I enjoyed the contrast between Chaim's and Gittel’s chapters and how they show the horrors and destruction the Nazis caused. Where Gittel’s chapters are short and easy to follow, Chaim wrote beautiful poetry and conveyed the places in very vivid detail. Through her writing, Gittel conveys how the Holocaust completely changed her from sweet and innocent into a strong, hard faced girl.

I suggest that this is a book for teens and that they read it. Graphic violence isn't for younger children to read. I also recommend buying this book. It is very interesting and you will want to go back to read it again.

Parent Perspective:
I am a huge Jane Yolen fan, and Mapping the Bones could become one of my favorite works. The story itself is amazing, and as our teen points out, Chaim's poetry is vivid. The writing is "sensory" in that as a reader you feel as though you are there. The Author's Note is a must-read - including for teens. It explains that the story is a retelling of Hansel and Gretel, but using historical events and real people.

Yolen's retelling is more akin to the original fairy tale art form, not the Disney-esque versions our kids see today. For that reason, I would recommend this to teens 14 and up. Having context for both the fairy tale AND the Holocaust is important to seeing all elements of the book.

Reader Enjoyment Factors:

Fans of fairy tale retellings - especially those set with real or historical backdrops - will not be disappointed by Mapping the Bones. The characters are compelling, the history gruesome (as real fairy tales were), and the writing is magnificent.

Content Awareness Factors:

The plot contains profanity, graphic violence, and racial slurs.

Type of Book:
This is a retelling of the story of Hansel and Gretel where the main characters are "replaced" by children who lived through the Holocaust.
Educational Themes:

Be sure to read - and encourage your teen to read - the Author's Note. The story overlays actual history - and real people - onto the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel. That makes it easy to compare/contrast the original story with the events of the Holocaust, as well as elements within the story that parallel the original.

Another idea that will engage your reader: ask them to pair a fairy tale with an historical event. Which pair would they choose? why? What about the events in their version that will help a reader see the underlying fairy tale?

Reading Level:
Recommended Age To Read By Yourself:
15 and Up
Recommended Age To Read Together:
14 and Up
Age of child:
Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™ . Reviewer age: 16
Purchase Recommendation:
If you like Jane Yolen, you're going to want to buy this book. It is a book that begs to be re-read, and each time you'll draw more nuance from her writing.

Title Mapping the Bones
Author Jane Yolen
Publisher Philomel Books, Imprint Penguin Young Readers Group © 2018
ISBN 9780399257780
Material Hard Cover
Cost $17.99
Genres Poetry, Historical Fiction, 1940s & 1950s
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