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And The Rat Laughed
By Nava Semel

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And The Rat Laughed

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Also available: 20 point Super Large Print edition

And The Rat Laughed
By Nava Semel
Read How You Want, (2009)
EasyRead Large Print, in 16 Point Font
(Originally Published in Standard Print by Hybrid Publishers)
ISBN: 9781442973701
Genre: Fiction, Holocaust Literature, Young Adult

Reviewed by Simone Bonim - September 29, 2009

Holocaust survivors are often reluctant to recount their experiences during World War II, and when a young school girl tries to get her grandmother to tell her about her war time experiences, she meets stiff resistance. Yet she persists, and little by little she learns how her grandmother survived the Holocaust by hiding in a pit, with only a rat as company. This is an eclectic story that unfolds unevenly. The story starts in the present, where the young school girl uncovers her grandmother's past. She then shares her grandmother's story with her teacher and by doing so, she sets off a chain of events that will resonate for decades to come. We are drawn into her grandmother's past and enter the pit in which she hid and are introduced to the rat that was her only company. From the past we are transported to the future, when the diary of Father Stanislaw is found, a diary in which he recounts how he came to rescue a young Jewish girl, who was near death, from those that would have turned her over to the Nazis for the bounty money that they were offering for Jewish victims. The girl in question is none other than the young girl who hid from the Nazis in a cold, dank, and dark pit until she had almost lost all knowledge of what it meant to be human.

The story is told in an odd, yet poignant mix of traditional narratives styles, poems and diary entries. The story also has an eclectic mix of narrators, including the school girl, her grandmother, the priest, and an anthropologist from nearly a hundred years in the future. Discordant at times, this story nonetheless coalesces into an unforgettable and touching story that will resonate with readers for years to come. It is also a classic in the making, and I will not be surprised to see it added to required reading lists at both the middle and high school levels, and perhaps even in colleges.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" These famous words were written by George Santayana in his book Life of Reason. This statement has been applied, in various configurations, to the Holocaust, perhaps more to than any other event. While we, as a society, try to 'remember' the Holocaust, it would seem that we are not doing a very good job of it. From Rwanda and Darfur to Croatia and Bosnia, ethnic cleansing is still a reality, and all too often "We" stand by and do nothing. And The Rat Laughed by Nava Semel is unique in the realm of Holocaust and genocide literature. Rather than concentrating on the Holocaust (or the genocide) itself, it concentrates more on the act of remembering and the role that our remembrances have on our understanding of the past, and how they compel us to act in the future. As such, And The Rat Laughed strives to remind us not only about the Holocaust, but also about the importance of remembering, and the duty we have to diligently husband our memories and to share them with future generations. This is a book for readers of all ages, and it is a book that is sure to engender lively discussions in both classroom and private settings.

And The Rat Laughed was originally written in Hebrew, and has been expertly translated into English by Miriam Shlesinger. The book is available not only in standard print, but thanks to Read How You Want, it is also available in a range of accessible formats including Braille, DAISY, and five different large print editions.


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