Tucson Jo

"This fast-paced story has plenty of action. The language is fitting for the historical era...Jo is a likable character and her fearless attitude is inspiring...The women’s rights issue delivers a strong message and would make for great discussions in the classroom." — Resource Links, Dec. 2014

Incandescent and Aware Storytelling
"Rich with historical details, this wonderful novel delivers a fast-paced story sure to appeal to teens who love to transport themselves to a time long ago in a faraway place. The characters are so perfectly drawn that readers will find it easy to climb inside their skins. To their amazement, they will probably discover that people haven't changed much in the last hundred and thirty years.

Young people who are struggling to find their own places in the world and wondering how to overcome issues they are having with their parents may find much comfort and insight in Josephine's and Connie's methods of dealing with their own family problems. The challenges of youth and the wisdom of age are beautifully handled in this exciting story, which is sure to become a favorite of many young readers. I hope it will find its way beneath many Christmas trees and onto countless library shelves, because it deserves to be applauded, savored, and enjoyed." — Elle Maxwell, author of 24-Carat Murder

“Papa is a tyrant; that’s what he is — a tyrant! And I will always be subject to his whims!”

When her father decides to run for mayor of Tucson in 1882, fourteen-year-old Josephine Fiedler is reluctant to support his bid. “I could be sealing my fate, helping to elect someone who wants nothing more than my docility.” With a mind of her own, Jo is in constant conflict with her father and doesn’t know how to back down when she feels she is in the right. “Without law, without order, there is no freedom,” states her father, but Jo wants nothing less than the freedom he promised her when he uprooted the family from “civilized” Boston to the Wild West of the Territory of Arizona because of his health. When violence erupts during the election campaign and her father’s opponent attacks him for being an Israelite, Jo has to reconsider her position and even what it means to be a Jew.

Inspired by Tucson’s first Jewish mayor, Tucson Jo is packed with action and deeds of derring-do, shootouts and holdups, while dealing with serious moral issues like right and wrong, law and order, and women’s rights.

"The plot grips readers' attention...Highly Recommended." ― CM Magazine

"This book gives an insight into how women suspected of witchcraft were mistreated and to a large extent misunderstood in medieval times." ― Resource Links

"A quick read with a powerful punch." ― teensreadtoo.com

"It's the history that's compelling here, the facts that are left out of the traditional textbooks, the role played by those strong women outsiders who threatened the male hierarchy." ― Booklist

"Matas's ability to write gripping stories that bring the past alive is well displayed in this enlightening and involving novel." ― School Library Journal
  • Finalist, Governor General's Literary Award, 1994.
  • New York Public Library, Book for the Teen Age, 1994.
  • ALA Quick Pick for Young Adults List, 1994.
  • Children’s Book Centre, Our Choice, 1993.
  • Moose Jaw Young Reader's Choice Award, 1998.
  • Resource Links, best books of 2007
Set in France in the sixteenth century, The Burning Time tells the story of a young girl whose mother is accused of being a witch. In her village, everyone is suspect. An accusation is enough to bring arrest, shame, even torture. Rose Rives cannot understand how the authorities–from the magistrate to the village priest–can encourage the villagers to denounce their neighbours as witches. Rose's simple life is shattered when her mother, who has been a midwife and a healer to half of the families in town, is turned over to the authorities. Struggling to free her mother, Rose finds herself pitted against some of the people she trusted the most.

The Burning Time is an unrelenting examination of the cruelty and injustice committed against women through all ages and the courage some women have found to speak out.

New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1994; Toronto: Harper Collins, 1994. Orca Books Publishers, Reprint Edition, 2007.

"...Matas does not try to make sweeping generalizations about their experiences or provide facile solutions to complicated issues. Instead, she invites readers to question the practice of judging people based on such constructions as race. Children aged nine to twelve will relish this fast-paced, thought-provoking novel." — Quill & Quire

4/4 Stars from CM Magazine

  • Books For the Teen Age, New York Public Library, 2001
  • Sydney Taylor Honour Book, 2001
  • Geoffrey Bilson Honour Book, 2001
  • Finalist, McNally Robinson Book for Young People, 2001
  • The Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award, 2002
  • Finalist, Lamplighter Award, 2003/2004

Holly Springs, Mississippi, 1862:

The Green family own a general store in this small Southern town where they have lived for many years. But ever since the Union army occupied her beloved town, Hannah Green has been furious. Her sister, Joanna, has fallen in love with Captain Mazer of the Union — the same Union that has been fighting against her brothers in the Confederate army to destroy the Southern way of life.

Now General Grant has issued General Order #11, which commands all Jews to evacuate the territory under his command. The Greens are forced to follow the Union army to Memphis. For the first time Hannah and her family face discrimination simply because of their religion. She begins to realize that not everyone believes the basic truths she has always accepted. While the battles rage around her, Hannah begins to fight another war — the war within — which could destroy everything she has ever believed.

With the historical accuracy for which she is known, best-selling author Carol Matas turns her attention to an unexamined chapter of the Civil War and creates a thought-provoking and heart-racing masterpiece.

Published by Simon & Schuster and Scholastic Canada, 2001.

Dear readers of The War Within:
I came across the story of the Jewish expulsion during the civil war, quite by accident. I was reading about Judah P. Benjamin who was the Secretary of State for the Confederacy, thinking that perhaps I would write a play about him. He was Jewish and the highest-ranking Jew to be in public office until Henry Kissinger over 100 years later. A book called Jews in the Civil War included a chapter about Ulysses S. Grant and his expulsion of Jews from the territories he controlled. This struck me as ironic since part of the motivation of the North was the freeing of slaves. And yet, how could they then justify discriminating against the Jews? It became even more interesting when I realized that Jews had owned slaves. Did they not see that they were practicing discrimination even as they railed against people discriminating against them? And had they forgotten that they celebrated their own escape from slavery every year at Passover?

What became the central question for me as I wrote this book was how do we escape from the prisons that are our minds? We are brought up a certain way, with certain values. Some of us are brought up as Democrats, some Republicans. Some of us are brought up to believe in God, others as atheists. Some of us are brought up to be suspicious of everyone and everything, others are brought up to trust everyone and everything. As we grow up we are often encouraged to "think for ourselves." But how do we do that if we are so used to thinking in a certain way that we do not even realize we are doing it? Can any of us really say how we come to our decisions in life?

Hannah has been brought up to believe slavery is normal, even right. This book is about her journey, a journey inside as she begins to question her long-standing beliefs. What are your long-standing beliefs? Have you ever thought about it? Could you even recognize them or are they too ingrained? Can we learn to think for ourselves?

I try to keep one maxim in mind at all times. Hillel said, Do not do to others what you would not want done to yourself. Many people try to indoctrinate us with one way of thinking or another. But you can test it by using Hillel's advise. Had Hannah done that she quickly would have realized that she would not want to be treated the way the slaves were treated.

  • New York Public Library, 1994 Book for the Teen Age
  • Canadian Library Association, Notable book, 1993
  • Sydney Taylor Award, 1993
  • Notable Children's Trade Book in the field of Social Studies, 1994, by NCSS, US
"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)" ―  Kirkus Reviews

Aaron and Zev have been protected from serving in the Czar's army for very different reasons — Aaron's father pays to keep his scholarly son free and Zev works as a khapper, kidnapping other poor, young Jewish boys to fulfill the czar's arm quotas. Zev's jealousy of Aaron turns to hate when he discovers that Miriam, the girl he loves, will be Aaron's future wife. Zev decides to rid himself of Aaron forever by turning him over to the czar's army, where few survive the forced labor. In this powerful novel set in the reign of Alexander II in Russia, Carol Matas explores the complex issues of betrayal, faith and forgiveness.

Publishers: Bantam, 1993. Harper Collins, 1993. Republished in 2017 by Carol Matas.

At age eleven, Rose Lepidus's main concerns are winning at ring-a-levio, going to school, and staying out of trouble. But when Mama falls ill with pneumonia and Papa throws all the family savings into the nickelodeon business, the burden of caring for her family falls on Rosie's shoulders.

Tall for her age, Rosie is able to pass for sixteen and take Mama's place sewing sleeves at a shirtwaist factory. Her family needs the money. But working conditions are horrible and the factory boss is incredibly strict. The girls are fined for nearly everything—even talking or humming! Within days of starting work, Rosie hears the buzz about a huge strike of twenty thousand shirtwaist workers. It's the strike that Mama's been working toward for ages: a huge push for change in the workplace. Rosie wants to join in, but as the streets become more dangerous, Papa asks his daughter to return to school. And Rosie must choose: follow Papa's orders … or fight with everything she's got.

Published by Simon & Schuster, Aladdin, Key Porter, 2003.


Life in Chicago sure is busy for Rosie. Between school and working as an usher in her father's nickelodeon, she has little time for play. She hears all about the Chicago baseball scene, though, from Abe, one of her younger brothers. He's always talking about the fierce rivalry between two teams, the Tigers and the Chavarim. Things really heat up when the Chavarim's top player gets hurt, with only one deciding game left in the season. The team's in a bind and they need help … fast!

With an arm and a spirit stronger than most boys', Rosie seems to her brothers an obvious choice for a substitute player. Maintaining her disguise as a boy to play with the all-male Chavarim is a big enough challenge without having to deal with bullies on the other team — and the sidelines — who are standing between her and a win. But fortunately for the Chavarim, nothing can stop this girl!

Publishers: Simon & Schuster, Aladdin, Key Porter, 2003.


With the success of Papa's latest baseball film, Rosie and her family move to beautiful Los Angeles to shoot more films starring Rosie. And there's no wasting time; within days of unpacking, Papa brings home an entire Wild West show so he can make authentic Westerns! Rosie's so excited about riding a horse for the first time that she forgets to watch her step — and before she knows it, she's caused a terrible accident for the show's best trick rider. Oy vey! Where will Papa's Western movies be without a real trick rider … and with a star who doesn't even know how to get on a horse?

Enter Zach, the son of the injured rider. Rosie finds him simply irritating! And just when Rosie thought it couldn't get any worse, she and Zach get hopelessly lost in the hills. All they have to get past the mountain lions, rattlesnakes, and other enemies in the wild are their wits, their skill, and each other. Can Rosie and Zach set aside their differences and brave the challenges ahead so that this story has a happy ending?

Publishers: Simon & Schuster, Aladdin, Key Porter, 2004.

The Red River Diary of Isobel Scott
Rupert's Land, 1815

"November 3, 1815 We arrived today at The Forks! So much has happened since my last entry, and weeks have passed. Near the end of the journey we had to endure another trial. We ran out of food. The hunters were only finding small game, not nearly enough to feed such a large group. At times all I could think of was my empty stomach. This morning when we arrived the sun shone. On the rough wooden dock, waiting for us, were thirteen families — the only settlers who had not been driven away by the North West Company. It was chaos as news was exchanged. I looked around anxiously to get a good view of our new home, but it all looked similar to the landscape we had just travelled. I was anxious to go exploring. I was about to suggest this to James and Robbie when Father hurried over to us and stated, "We cannot even unpack. The settlers have not had a chance to rebuild since the attack. Apparently there is not enough food for us to spend the winter here." I cannot yet believe it. Such a long and difficult trip, only to discover home is still beyond our grasp."

Published by Scholastic Canada Ltd., 2001


"I didn't understand. Why couldn't I just continue as before? I'd happily sleep on the floor. I wouldn't eat. Not anything. Well, hardly anything. I just didn't want to be sent away!"

Rebecca has always loved being part of a big family. When disaster forces them to leave their farm and move to the city, well, at least they are together! But life in 1912 Winnipeg isn't easy. Until work and housing are found, shy Rebecca is sent to live with strangers: the Kostaniuks, a Ukrainian family.

To her surprise, Rebecca finds a friend there. Sonia likes the same books as Rebecca, and laughs at the same things. Their friendship is stonger than Mr. Kostaniuk's attitude toward Jews. It's stronger than the suspicion of the other Jewish girls at school. It gets them through illness, fire, and schoolyard brawls. But can it overcome the disapproval of Rebecca's entire family?

Published by  Scholastic Canada, 2000, and by Clarion, 2001, as Sparks Fly Upwards.

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