Rating: 4 Stars ★★★★☆
Anna was walking home from school with Elsbeth, a girl in her class.
Suppose your country began to change. Suppose that without your noticing, it became dangerous for some people to live in Germany any longer. Suppose you found, to your complete surprise, that your own father was one of those people.
That is what happened to Anna in 1933. She was nine years old when it began, too busy with her schoolwork and toboganning to take much notice of political posters, but out of them glared the face of Adolf Hitler, the man who would soon change the whole of Europe – starting with her own small life.
Anna suddenly found things moving too fast for her to understand. One day, her father was unaccountably missing. Then she herself and her brother Max were being rushed by their mother, in alarming secrecy, away from everything they knew – home and schoolmates and well-loved toys – right out of Germany…
I first read this book when I was little and the title always stuck with me. On rereading it as an adult, it has lost nothing of its charm.
It follows the life of a Jewish family who is forced to flee Germany when Hitler wins the election. The father, a famous writer and outspoken critic of Hitler, is high on the list of people the Nazis want to arrest and he escapes barely in time.
“It’s quite simple,” said Mama. “Papa thinks Hitler and the Nazis might win the elections. If that happened he would not want to live in Germany while they were in power, and nor would any of us.”
“Because we’re Jews?” asked Anna.
“Not only because we’re Jews. Papa thinks no one would be allowed to say what they thought any more, and he wouldn’t be able to write. The Nazis don’t like people to disagree with them.”
The family wander from Switzerland to Paris and finally, to London, trying to eke out a living.
It’s a very difficult topic, but I think it manages the tone just right. It doesn’t hide the difficulties from the children but it’s also clearly a children’s book and relates the story of the family in a kind manner.
Family is always at the center of the book. No matter what happens and how difficult it gets for them, they are always together and look out for each other.
A sweet children’s book that manages to paint a vivid picture of life as a refugee.