Franziska Mangold is only 10 years old in 1938 in Germany when the first anti-Jew rumblings begin to spread through the country. While many families manage to evacuate and relocate to new countries, the Mangolds are one of the last leave. When Ziska’s father is taken into custody, Ziska’s mother does the only thing she can for her child. Ziska is put on a kindertransport, a train taking children from Germany to London to stay with adoptive parents. Once Ziska arrives in London, she finds a new family and a new life. When its time to reunite with her family before the war, Ziska must decide which family she wants to be a part of.
I thought this book provided a very unique look to World War 2 and the Holocaust. Although the book spans 7 years, I never really felt that Ziska aged or changed in that time span. She was 10 when we met her, and still sounded and acted like her 10-year-old self at age 17, or she acted like a 17-year-old when she was 10. I can’t decide. The other characters were decently developed, although Ziska’s adoptive father Matthew felt like an empty-filler type of character, as did the entire Gary storyline, although I could appreciate what he added to the story.
Most of the story is based on Ziska and her intent desire to be a part of something, either a family or a culture. She didn’t get along with her parents, (her mother), she was born a Jew to parents that converted to Protestantism, making her outcast with both the Jewish community, as well as the Germans. Moving to London allowed Ziska a chance to start over and find a place for herself in the ever evolving Europe. In London, Ziska developed a new-found appreciate for her Jewish roots, much to the dismay of her mother. Ziska’s transformation over time only further wedged the gap between mother and daughter.
The major qualm I had with this book was the author’s excessive use of “!” It was everywhere! Even when it didn’t need to be! It really threw off my pace and chain of thought when reading! I did read the ARC of this book, so I’m hoping that at least half of the “!” were removed before the final print.
Overall it is a good supplemental read during WW2 studies in history classes. I’d recommend this book for 6th grade and up. There isn’t anything overly graphic with the violence, or overly mushy with the underlying love story between Ziska and Walter.