To Hope and Back: The Voy­age of the St. Louis

  • Review
By – January 10, 2012
How do you tell chil­dren whatit’s like to live in Nazi Ger­many in 1939 and, sub­se­quent­ly, show their escapeto Cuba via a lux­u­ry ship? By hav­ing the chil­dren tell the sto­ry. The author uses this tech­nique except when she wants to insert the opin­ions ofthe cap­tain who shares what is hap­pen­ing in the out­side world. Thesechap­ters are enti­tled, Whatthe Cap­tain Knew.  The­set­ting, for the most part, is the ship, The St. Louis, car­ry­ing 937 passengers,almost all of them Jews. On the ship, the emo­tions range from jubi­lance­to fear, despair and, final­ly, relief when they are allowed to dock indif­fer­ent ports in Europe. The mes­sage is not sug­ar­coat­ed nor is itlurid. Lisa, the daugh­ter of an upper class fam­i­ly, and Sol, the­son of a work­ing class one, give us vivid descrip­tions. Sol’s com­ment­that he feels free on the ship” and that his fears fall away… like­so many lay­ers of heavy cloth­ing” gives the read­er a clear pic­ture of whathe has been fac­ing. The cap­tain is com­mit­ted to releas­ing his charges tofree­dom in Cuba and, when unable to, works with nego­tia­tors to find oth­er­coun­tries that will accept them. The author includes pho­tographs of thep­eo­ple and activ­i­ties that take place on board, as well as let­ters which plead­for the release of the refugees. Addi­tion­al­ly, in the epi­logue, we seep­ic­tures and read sto­ries about what hap­pened lat­er to Lisa and Sol and to some­of the oth­er pas­sen­gers on the ship. This is a very well done non­fic­tion­book and is rec­om­mend­ed for ages 10 – 15
Marge Kaplan is a retired Eng­lish as a Sec­ond Lan­guage teacher. She is a con­sul­tant for the children’s lit­er­a­ture group for the Roseville, MN school sys­tem and is a sto­ry­teller of Jew­ish tales.

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