A Faraway Island
By Annika Thor, translated by Linda Schenck, read by Amy Rubinate
Published 2010 by Listening Library
Stephie and Nellie, sisters from Vienna, are sent to Sweden to live with other families. They don't have a choice: they are Jewish and the Nazis have come to Austria. This is the only way for them to stay safe. Their parents tell them they will only have to stay six months, but six months go by and the sisters are still in Sweden. Can Stephie and Nellie adjust to their new life? Will they ever be reunited with their parents?
This is the first book in a four book series, though it appears only two have been translated to English thus far. This book won the Batchelder Award, given to the most outstanding children's book originally published in a language other than English outside the United States. Book two, The Lily Pond, was named an Honor book for this same award. Being an avid follower of book news and awards, this series had obviously been on my radar. I spotted the audio available for download and figured I'd give it a go.
I'm a big historical fiction fan and I really enjoy the alternate perspective on World War II that this book brings. I knew that displaced children such as Stephie and Nellie existed, but I'd never really heard this story. I would love to pair this book with a non-fiction title on the same subject. Additionally, this book would be a fantastic addition to a classroom unit on WWII. This is a great example of historical fiction, partly because it immediately makes me think of these things. Outside of that, it's also just a well-written book. I like that it portrays Swedish life in the country realistically (or so I assume, having never been to the Swedish countryside, and certainly not in the 1930s). Everything feels believable about the new life the sisters find themselves living.
That being said, this is not a terribly exciting book. The main focus here is the adjustment the girls must undergo to fit into their new lives. Most of the action is centered around the simple, everyday hurdles that a lot of children face. I like that the sisters each have a different experience and different challenges to face. I like that this is a quieter book that doesn't ignore the war (its presence is still felt throughout the book). I am interested to see what the rest of the series covers, and I'll be trying to pick up book two when I get a chance.
I'd recommend this to historical fiction fans, especially those who enjoy the Little House series.
As a little note down here, this review marks my 500th blog post! I can't believe it. I've been blogging for a little over 2 years now, so that seems like a huge number. I still don't know how many people are out there actually reading this little blog, but I feel like I'm getting better as I go on. If you're reading and you feel like saying hi, please do - it will make me feel like these 500 entries have actually made a little difference. Thanks for reading!