The third installment in a proposed quartet of books about Stephie’s experiences as a Jewish refugee in Sweden during World War II that began with Batchelder-winning Faraway Island (2009) and honor book The Lily Pond (2011).
Now Stephie is 16, and her world has
become increasingly complex; even her 10-year-old sister, Nellie, finds that it
isn’t easy to negotiate two worlds. The contrast between their Jewish heritage
and faith with the Pentecostal Christianity of their hosts is challenging, as
is finding funds for high school. Meeting other Jewish refugees awakens Stephie
to the broader ethical aspects of the war, and messages from her parents in
Theresienstadt help her understand the horrors of the Holocaust. Her friend
Vera’s sexual entanglements make her uneasy, and Stephie is frighteningly
vulnerable. Her friend May’s family and Miss Björk, her teacher, come to the island
for the summer, allowing readers to meet Miss Björk’s partner, Janice, an
Englishwoman with a frivolous bent. The intricacy of the issues examined here
are all built on events and characters introduced in the previous books, making
for a rich blend of emotional truths presented in relatively few pages—but
readers need to be familiar with those earlier titles to appreciate them.
Readers who have come to love Stephie will be glad to see her world expand. (Historical fiction. 12-16)