Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Shelf Life [kids]

Shanghai EscapeShanghai Escape by Kathy Kacer, 242 pages.
@ SPL:  J 940.5318092 Lash-K   

Young Lily Toufar led a happy and secure life in Vienna with her parents, cousins and other relatives.  She had many friends and enjoyed attending school.

Her childhood changed dramatically, however, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party came to power. His cruel treatment of the Jewish people in Austria and Germany made their lives unbearable.  They began to seek new homes where they would not be persecuted.

The Toufar family moved half-way around the world, all the way to Shanghai.  It seemed a strange choice to Lily, but her parents thought that their new home would be far enough from Europe to be safe – and at first, it was.  Mr. Toufar found work; Mrs. Toufar sewed for others at home, and Lily attended a nearby school.

Then the situation changed.  Shanghai was occupied by Japan, whose leaders were supportive of Adolf Hitler and his harsh treatment of Jewish people.  When the thousands of Jewish refugees in Shanghai were ordered to move into an overcrowded ghetto called Hongkew, Lily’s family had to search for a new home once again.

This time, it was very difficult.  Housing, food, water, clothing and other supplies were scarce in the ghetto.  Dirt, disease and death were everywhere, and as the months went on, things became much worse.

Then the bombs began to fall on Hongkew. It was a very dangerous time, and the Toufars wondered if they would ever be safe.

The story of Lily and her family had a happy ending.  They survived the bombings, and in September 1945, American troops liberated Hongkew. Three years later, the Toufars moved to Canada and began a new life in Toronto.

Award-winning author Kathy Kacer’s story of hope and perseverance highlights a lesser-known chapter of World War II:  that of the thousands of Jewish Europeans who took refuge in Shanghai.     

Photographs of the Toufar family have been included, and an interview with the grown-up Lily concludes this poignant, true story.

** Recommended for ages 9 to 12 years.
This review appears in the Stratford Gazette. Written by Sally Hengeveld, Librarian.

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