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The Journey of the St. Louis
Nonfiction Ages 9-12
Pages: 200
Themes: The Holocaust, European history, American history
Publisher: Second Story Press
Pub Date: 01/Sep/2011
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Lisa and Sol board the luxury ship St. Louis in Hamburg, Germany, on May 13, 1939. Lisa and her family are in first class; Sol and his parents are below in tourist class. The children have mixed feelings—they're excited to be beginning this voyage to a better life and sad to be leaving their old lives behind. They are Jewish, as are almost all of the 937 passengers on board, and although war has not been officially declared in Europe, the Nazis have been persecuting Jews for years. As they set sail for Cuba, the atmosphere on the ship is optimistic, led by the German captain Gustave Shröder, who is determined to see his passengers to safety. But as they learn that Hitler's propaganda has turned the country against them, the mood changes to despair. They are turned away—first from Cuba, then the United States, and then Canada.

The story of Lisa and Sol is set against the tragic true history of the St. Louis. Denied entry from port after port, the captain was forced to return his Jewish passengers to Europe, where many died in the Holocaust. Through the eyes of Sol and Lisa, we see the injustice and heartbreak that were caused by the prejudice and hatred of so many.

CM Magazine
"The author tells this true story through the eyes of the innocent, building the suspense to a level where readers almost feel they are on the ship, themselves...Black and white photos of parts of the ship, family shots and documents bring this true story to life. To Hope and Back is recommended for middle years school libraries as a good resource about World War II."
The New York Times
"Lisa and Sol's stories, related with poignancy and immediacy, will touch young readers. An unfortunate lesson on the complicity and international complexities that made the Holocaust possible."
"The novel does an excellent job of mixing fictionalized history with actual events...[and] achieves its goal of presenting the St. Louis tragedy in a way that younger readers can relate to."
Resource Links
"Another excellent book to help young people remember the Holocaust...Highly recommended."
Quill & Quire
"A tragic story about an historical event that deserves to be told, and which should provoke thoughtful discussion about a difficult subject."
School Library Journal
"This book sheds light on a dramatic story that is likely to be unfamiliar to most students...Kacer's text is well written and well researched, and the black-and-white photography from the United States Holocaust Museum offers windows into everyday lives on the ship...The historical significance of the St. Louis and the compelling photos make this a worthwhile supplementary purchase."


Resource Links "The Year's Best"  | 2011 | Commended
OLA Best Bets  | 2011 | Commended
Information Book Award nominee  | 2012 | Long-listed

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