The story of Jewish refugees in China during World War II is told through the eyes of an 11-year-old girl and her extended family.
When Lily Toufar and her family flee their home in Vienna in 1938, on the eve of Kristallnacht, they head for Shanghai, China. This city, so far from their roots, is one of the few places that will allow Jews to escape the oppression they are experiencing. Life in the Shanghai ghetto is full of deprivation and struggle for Lily’s family. Despite the difficulties, they are together, a reality they have to work hard to maintain. The refugees build a community with school, worship and religious traditions. Those things are clouded by outside events as Lily’s parents try to stay abreast of what is happening in the war. It gets closer following Pearl Harbor with the fear that the strict Japanese presence in China might intensify and extend to the refugees. Lily’s story is compelling, and this highly readable narrative always maintains the perspective of a child coming of age in dangerous circumstances. The story would have been strengthened by some documentation. The moving dialogue is not sourced, leaving readers to wonder whether it’s real. There are few footnotes, and most of the photos, while helpful to the story, are not credited.
Readers will come away with a strong sense of the resiliency of a family and a community under unique stress, though they will need to look elsewhere for facts to back it up. (Nonfiction. 9-12)