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Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

*A Faraway Island* by Annika Thor, translated by Linda Schenk- young readers book review
Also by Annika Thor:

The Lily Pond/a>

Also illustrated by Linda Schenck:

The Lily Pond/a>
A Faraway Island
by Annika Thor, translated by Linda Schenk
Ages 9-14 256 pages Delacorte November 2009 Hardcover    

Winner of the Batchelder Award for translated children’s literature, A Faraway Island is a splendid piece of historical fiction depicting the lives of two displaced Jewish girls at the beginning of the Second World War. Expertly translated, Thor’s immediacy in tone and character make the book read more like contemporary fiction than a historical reflection.

Stephie and her younger sister, Nellie, have been sent by their Austrian parents to live in Sweden. Placed in separate homes on an island, Nellie at once assimilates into the Swedish language and culture. Longing for her parents and former life in Vienna, Stephie’s adjustment to her new life is slow; her foster mother is rather cold, she has difficulty making friends, and she inadvertently makes a number of mistakes which are misconstrued as disobedient.

An excellent student, Stephie is deeply disappointed when she cannot continue her education on the mainland due to financial concerns. Although compelled by her foster family to attend a Protestant church and accept Jesus, the girls’ Jewish faith is not as much an issue as their heritage. Parallels can be drawn between the bullying Stephie experiences with classmates and the domination of Germany over other European countries. As the war closes in around Sweden, memories of her family’s persecution in Vienna surface and explain some of her difficulties assimilating into Swedish culture.

The first of a four-part series, A Faraway Island is a wonderful addition to children’s fiction about the Holocaust. Solid research coupled with the author’s experience as a Jewish child growing up in Sweden adds to the genuine feeling of time and place in the novel.

The story’s deliberate pace keeps the reader’s attention through relatively common events in Stephie’s life – swimming at the beach, going to the store, working for summer renters, etc. It is these everyday occurrences that readers will connect with – bridging a gap in history, making it possible for young readers to easily relate to the characters and comprehend their struggles.

Hopefully, other books in the series will be translated into English and available in the United States very soon. Highly recommended.
Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

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