This story is both an incredible testament to the bravery and resilience of a German refugee during the Second World War, and a good old-fashioned adventure which completely absorbed me and, I am not ashamed to admit, led to heartfelt tears. Any children’s book that can capture and affect me so deeply is a real credit to the depth, honesty and power of the writing.
The Second World War is studied by many children in Year 6, so I loved the way this story started in a Year 6 class with the children being asked if they knew anyone who lived through the war. Daniel did and, when he spoke to his Grandmother, he probably wasn’t expecting mention of MI5!
There aren’t many of us left, and it would be a shame if our stories died with us.
This is the heart-breaking, but ultimately uplifting, story of Daniel’s Grandmother, Anna Schlesinger, who travelled to England from Germany before the outbreak of the War on the kindertransport in order to escape from the cruel and terrifying persecution of the Jewish community by the Nazis. This persecution is compellingly described and made me appreciate the terror that Anna carries with her throughout the story. She locks images she can’t deal with in a box locked away in her mind.
Once Anna arrives in England, she is taken by her new foster parents to their family farm in Kent, and a new life begins. The family, including their two children Molly and Frank, are friendly and welcoming and Anna finds herself settling into her new life, despite the worry for her parents and her nightmares … until the war comes to Kent!
An injured British soldier is hiding in the hayloft, desperate to visit his ill mother … but is he who he appears? Anna makes a terrifying discovery that makes her nightmares real. Will she be able to overcome her genuine fear to thwart a plan to cause possibly insurmountable damage to Britain’s war with Germany? So begins Anna’s incredible tale of courage, daring and determination to help the war effort which sees her involved in a dangerous web of intrigue.
Anna is such a wonderful young protagonist who could easily have been destroyed by her horrific experiences in Germany, but instead she chooses to honour her mother and father by making the most of the opportunities she is given, and by making them proud of her. She is kind, loyal and courageous despite her heartache and fear, but also reacts in a totally believable way to the prejudice and betrayal she is faced with after the outbreak of war with Germany.
Threaded throughout this powerful story are themes of loss, sacrifice and prejudice which are just as pertinent to today’s society as they were during the Second World War. These would make for some fantastic discussion in any Year 6 classroom.
What can I say about the ending of this story? It is fair to say that I closed this book with tears streaming down my face, tears of both sorrow and release. This story is truly inspirational: heart-breaking in places, but also full of hope that adversity can be overcome, and that goodness will shine through in our darkest moments.
Thank you to Toppsta and Nosy Crow for a copy in exchange for an honest review.