When her father is arrested on November 9, 1938 (Kristallnacht), and sent to a concentration camp, 10-year-old Franziska Mangold, raised Protestant though of Jewish ancestry, gets a coveted spot on the Kindertransport, which carries her from Berlin to London, where she is taken in by a kind-hearted Orthodox Jewish family.
Voorhoeve empathetically explores the effects of Ziska's abrupt separation from her home, family and best friend, Rebekka Liebich, with whom she roamed the neighborhood, in this engaging and often moving coming-of-age story, originally published in Germany. In England she has to adjust to a new language, culture, school, religion and family (Dr. and Mrs. Shepard and their 18-year-old son, Gary). She is even given a new name, Frances. Ziska's story is divided into three books: "Survival Plan 1938-1939," "Blackout 1939-1940," in which Frances is evacuated to the country when Germany invades Poland on September 1, 1939, and "Returning Home 1941-1945," in which there is tragedy, danger, romance, the end of the war and complicated reunions. Throughout, the author skillfully weaves in important aspects of the Kinder experience. Ziska tries desperately to find a sponsor for her parents, experiennces confusion over her identity and religious beliefs as she bonds with her adopted family, feels guilt for those left behind, especially Bekka. An ongoing thread about Jewish ritual and law, especially as it relates to fertility, contains some inaccuracies, which is regrettable, given the context. A glossary would have been helpful.
Though occasionally convoluted, it is ultimately a poignant, thoughtful work. (afterword) (Historical fiction. 12 & up)