The Whirlwind

  • Pages:144
  • Publisher:Orca Book Publishers
  • Themes:holocaust fiction, prejudice, racism, obsession, faith
  • Available:03/01/2007
  • Age Groups:Fiction Ages 12+
  • Lexile:610L
  • ATOS:3.9
It is 1941. Fourteen-year-old Ben Friedman flees the horrors of Nazi Germany with his parents and his sister, leaving behind his grandparents, his friends, his home. They make a difficult journey over land and sea all the way to Japan and then to America. In Seattle, Ben dares to hope that he will finally be safe. He finds a friend in John, a Japanese-American boy, but then comes the attack on Pearl Harbor and everything changes. Fear begins to grow in Ben, fear that it is all happening again. Where can he be safe? What should he do? He dreams of Canada, thinking it a haven, only to find that he has nowhere to turn, nowhere to run. Perhaps safety is not where or even what he thinks it is. Perhaps life is not what he imagined at all.
"Confronts a shameful part of World War II history—American's prejudice against German Jewish refugees. ...Effectively moves from fury and blame to understanding and love."
– Booklist
"An excellent example of Holocaust literature for young adults...Whether read as an action/adventure novel or as a gateway to learning about a boy's first-hand experiences in World War II. Highly Recommended."
– CM Magazine
"This unique and thought-provoking story shows what prejudice and indifference to suffering and wrongdoing can lead to."
– School Library Journal
"Matas does a good job of compressing a complex story into not very many pages...Every library that caters to junior high readers show know about this book."
– Resource Links
"An issues novel as well as an historical one and the issues aren't easy...A timely look at the treatment of foreign nationals...Aims to be easily accessible."
– The Globe and Mail
"A poignant look at what it means to come of age in a world of uncertainty...An excellent choice for teachers...the kind of book adults and adolescents alike will be glad to have read."
"Another winner from the talented Matas."
– Jewish Book World
"Teaches an underlying message of tolerance and acceptance through a friendship rare for its time...A well-written, easy read for any level."
– Atlanta Jewish Times
"A quiet examination of one boy's struggle to understand the terrible circumstances that have fallen on his family."
– Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Written in an engaging style...the novel introduces well-developed characters faced with compelling issues."
– AJL Newsletter
"Part an adventure story, part a story of descent into obsession [it] is also very much a simplified but sophisticated debate on religion and ethics...The Whirlwind attempts a lot and accomplishes a lot."
– Kid Lit
"This bold, painful book focuses on controversial issues and darker Pearl Harbor era facts and emphasizes complicated gray areas over simpler black/white scenarios, creating balance and insight for any level reader."
Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) Sydney Taylor Book Award   | 2008  |  Commended
Manitoba Book Awards / Les Prix du livre du Manitoba - McNally Robinson Book for Young People (Younger Category)   | 2008  |  Short-listed
Stellar Book Award   | 2009  |  Nominated