The story is thought provoking and like Once by Morris Gleitzman, told through the eyes of three children which makes it resonate loudly, but makes it a much more harrowing read.
It’s a story that needs to be told. My dad is Jewish and I grew up going on holiday to the Lake District, really near Windemere. So how did I not know about this until the BBC Radio 4 programme? This is the programme that Tom’s wife heard and suggested that it would be a great story for him to tell. I’m really glad she did.
Tom does this really well, makes history personal, and in this story reminds us that the people who suffered at the hands of the Nazis were people like you and me, not nameless numbers.
The story follows three boys Yossi, Mordecai and Leo as they travel from Auschwitz to Ambleside, they are uncertain whether they will really be safe as they have been lied to so many times, but Talia who travels with them provides reassurance.
They are nervous when asked to shower, disbelieving that there will be food every day and struggling to accept that people could be kind after all they have been through.
The book moves between their stories before the war with their families, to life in the ghetto and the concentration camps, detailing the barbarity and the struggle to survive. How do you recover from all that the children witnessed and the loss that they endured?
With love and every day kindness. The help and support they receive at the Calgarth Estate, including simple basic needs such as food, clean clothes and exercise gives them the opportunity to talk. They can be angry which allows them to remember the past. There is the gradual realisation that they are going to be ok, and the decision to stick together is what keeps boys secure.
The photos of the children at the back of the book and the additional information remind us that whilst this is a fictional account, the story is real and needs to be remembered. There are some great resources here for using the book as part of the curriculum.
Tom’s research is impeccable and the characters he writes are real, you are compelled to read the story and find out what happens to them.
With thanks to Barrington Stoke for the proof copy of this book – such a privilege to read it.