Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
The trenchant audio edition of Gratz's middle grade novel employs the voices of three actor to tell the interwoven stories of three young refugees. Actor Goldstrom convincingly portrays 12-year-old Josef, who escapes persecution and murder in Germany in 1938. Listeners can hear the loss of innocence in Josef's voice as he goes from anticipating becoming a bar mitzvah to becoming the head of the family after his father is murdered. Voice artist Garcia skillfully narrates the plight of 11-year-old Isabel and the Fernandez family during their harrowing 90-mile escape from Cuba to Miami on a boat in 1994. Actor Cohen dramatizes the horror of the ongoing Syrian crises in reading the story 12-year-old Mahmoud and his family, who are fleeing from the current, devastating civil war in Syria. His portrayal of Mahmoud's optimistic father gives some relief to the grim circumstances that befall the family on their way to sanctuary in Germany. This well done performance is a timely work that will undoubtedly help young listeners think critically about the circumstances of children beyond their own comfortable borders. Ages 9-12. A Scholastic hardcover. (July) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal Review
Gr 3-7-The term "refugee" is constantly in the news. In direct response, Gratz gets personal with desensitizing statistics, policies, and politics by giving names, families, and histories to three tweens fleeing three countries during three time periods. Each fits the "refugee" label but is so much more than that single word. These faraway strangers immediately become children who deserve urgent attention. Josef (voiced by Michael Goldstrom) escapes Nazi Germany on the eve of World War II aboard the ill-fated St. Louis; Isabel (Kyla Garcia) leaves the unrest and deprivation of Cuba's Special Period during the 1990s; and Mahmood (Assaf Cohen) flees the bombs in 2015 that continue to destroy Syria. Despite the distance in backgrounds and in decades, the three stories will converge-naturally, yet magically-by book's end. For further edification, Gratz's detailed author's note contextualizes his fiction with truth. VERDICT With its superb tri-part narration, the audio version provides an ideal (even mandatory) opportunity for libraries to share these resonating tales with readers reluctant to pick up the page.-Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
After the horror of Kristallnacht, Josef's family knows it's time to leave Germany. In 1994, Isabel hunts for gasoline for the homemade boat that will help her family and neighbors flee Cuba. In 2015, Mahmoud's family is shell-shocked from the long war in Syria, hoping a perilous trek out of Aleppo can bring them to a more peaceful land. Gratz's triptych of alternating refugee stories delivers a gut-wrenching look at the terror of escaping a homeland that offers only repression or death. The young narrators are strongly rendered players in their own family dramas. Josef details the betrayal of Jewish refugees on board the St. Louis, denied asylum by Cuba in 1939. Isabel recounts the shark attack on her flimsy boat in open waters. Mahmoud knows he will never forget that feeling of paralyzing terror, of powerlessness in the face of death and humiliation as he bravely soldiers on to Europe. Some readers may prefer to read each story sequentially rather than in separated chapters, but this is a haunting fictional treatment of historic events.--O'Malley, Anne Copyright 2017 Booklist
Horn Book Review
Gratzs stirring novel humanizes the plight of refugees worldwide. Told in alternating chapters, the book follows fictional child refugees from three different eras whose stories ultimately, and surprisingly, converge. In 1939 Josef and his family, who are Jewish, hope to escape Nazi Germany on the notorious MS St. Louis bound for Cuba. Fifty-plus years later, Isabels family and their neighbors sail a homemade boat toward Miami away from riots and starvation in Havana. And in 2015 Mahmoud and his family flee war-torn Aleppo by foot, car, and raft to build a new life in Germany. Gratz doesnt downplay the trials that refugees endure, as discrimination, betrayal, death, and the elements themselves bar the way. The narrative keeps readers on edge throughout these perilous, wrenching journeys but allows for suitably poetic turns during quieter moments of reflection: This trip, this odyssey, was pulling his family apart, stripping them away like leaves from the trees in the fall. An appended authors note details the true circumstances that inspired Gratzs story and includes organizations that help refugees today, reinforcing the novels timely reminder of humanitys common ground and the need for kindness and charitable actions toward displaced persons. russell perry (c) Copyright 2017. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Book Review
In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you've ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school-aged refugeesJosef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppoeventually intertwine for maximum impact. Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: "See us.Hear us. Help us." With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar. Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author's note) (Historical fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.