North Mankato, MN: Encounter by Capstone Press, 2017
There are so many resources already available about the World War II era, what more can possibly be written? Escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport is worth taking a look, especially when looking for a nonfiction WWII title that includes children, where the circumstances are not just too terrible for elementary kids to digest. That’s not to say there isn’t heartbreak here, there is; but there is hope, too. As Escaping the Nazis begins, the world prepares for war, some Jewish families prepare to get their children out of German controlled parts of Europe, even though they know they might never be together again.
Although Berne covers some dark subject matter here, it is appropriate for upper elementary and middle school students. The book is structured as seven seperate accounts, each focused on a child that escaped on a Kindertransport, with gently, but factually, presented information that makes the stiutaion clear. We learn about the children, their parents, and some of their experience so far with the Nazis. In some ways this book might be more difficult for adults than for kids to read. One can’t help but sympathize with parents making the impossible choice of trusting your child to the care of strangers in a far-away country, or keeping them close in terrible danger.
About 10,000 children were taken to England on the Kindertransport. With photographs, narratives, and first-hand accounts, we track seven of them to England. It isn’t until the very end of the book that we learn the fates of our seven children and their families, which helps to build some suspense. Berne also includes a fantastic timeline, a glossary, sources for more reading, a bibliography, source notes, and an index, but a few maps showing the routes of the trains would have been helpful.
All in all, this title would make a great supporting player to an elementary or middle school collection with a solid WWII collection. Put it on the wish list.
Dewey: 940.53 Interest Level: Grades 3-6
Reviews and Awards: Booklist; Kirkus Review, Publishers Weekly.
For Young Adult Readers: The Children of Willesden Lane: Beyond the Kindertransport: A Memior of Music, Love and Survival by Mona Golabek.
Fiction pairing: The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (middle grades) or My Family for the War by Anne C. Voorhoeve (YA).
On the Web:
The Kindertransport Assocation: find inforamtion about the history of the Kindertransport, traveling exhibits, and links to lots of resources.
United Kingdom National Archives: the Education/Classroom Resources section here is overflowing with primary source documents from the government ministries, other organizations and individuals who directed the Kindertransport.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: for more information about the Holocaust, including recorded oral histories from an organizer and a refugee from the Kindertransport.
Film: Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport. Directed my Mark Jonathan Harris, narrated by Judy Dench, Warner Bros, 2000.