BOOK REVIEWS

The Children of Willesden Lane: A True Story of Hope and Survival During World War II (Young Readers Edition) Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2017-09-16 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 151 user ratings
ISBN:031655488X
LANGUAGE:English

"I gave 5 stars based solely on the story of Lisa Jura, a budding fourteen year old concert pianist, whose lessons are cut short solely because she is Jewish and living in Vienna. The year was 1938 and Nazi party controlled Austria. Lisa's parents must decide which of their three daughters they would send to the safety of England.

The memoir tells Lisa's story during the war. The resilience of these children who create family ties with each other and the woman who runs the hostel where they live is a tender and uplifting story of the otherwise horrors of the war. Lisa manages to continue her piano studies and ultimately is reunited with her two sisters.

The kindertransport organized by British charities saved thousands of children; it is a story I was barely aware of but one that needs to be told. Perhaps we've reached enough distance from World War II that the heroics of individuals can now be celebrated. Although Lisa was not exempt from sorrow, her story is cause for celebration.
" said.

"Contrary to my past experiences flaking out on book groups, I've joined another book group. I went to the meeting last month and was able to fudge my way through, despite the fact that I hadn't read the book. I decided not to do that again, and read this one in advance of the next meeting.

I read the book in one evening. Suffice it to say, it's a quick and easy read. It is so heavy handed with themes of courage, fear, and survival that it seems a bit like a parable, though I know that isn't the author's intent, b/c the author is the daughter of the protagonist and wrote the book to tell her mother's story. In any event, the "parable" feeling made me feel like the book was kind of juvenile.

On the other hand, I didn't know anything about Kindertransport and generally find tales of WWII and the persecution of the Jews to be heart-rending -- and this book was no exception. The heroine, aka, the author's mother, is a tremendous talent and a tremendous spirit, and you're rooting for her from the first page.

Overall, quick and easy and I liked it.
" said.

"War, separated from her family at 14, loneliness, longing to be with family, living a daily nightmare yet holding on to a promise she made her mother on the day she was sent away. "Hold on to you music Lisa. It will bring you through the tough times." She kept her promise, made many friends, found a family of fellow kinder and held on to her dream though bombings, loss, and a deep desire to be reunited with her family.

Powerful book for 5-12th graders, or anyone who would love to read about the this difficult time in our history. It speaks to the heart of every human who wants, needs, and must hold a safe place in their lives. Love and belonging are basic needs in life, and these children were denied this fundamental life need through the hatred of one man.

Please don't let hatred ruin another life. Even those who seem to be standing against what they perceive as hatred. Show love for others and our world will be a much kinder world. Thank you Mona and Lee for telling this story when there are millions of others that might have been told.
" said.

"I was attracted to this book by the title ... It's part of the wider area I have worked in for much of my life, and down the road from where my Mum grew up. This gave me more than normal imagination, as when the author said I went shopping in Walm Lane, I could envisage the route she actually took from local knowledge. There is one error, Edgware Road was spelt incorrectly as "Edgeware".

That aside this is an uplifting book. Yes there are of course challenging and emotional consequences of Nazi barbarism, but unusually much of the family survives and is reunited which is tremendously uplifting for a Shoah book, as most families lost the majority of loved ones.

I can't explain why but it was a more emotional read, than I have read for a very long time. I found several passages were very touching and emotional, causing this cynical old bloke to well up with emotion more time than I would like to publicly admit!

Thoroughly enjoyable, albeit on a challenging subject. A recommended read!
" said.

"Author Mona Golabek (and journalist Lee Cohen) tells her mother's story--A Jewish girl from Vienna, her parents got her a spot on a Kindertransport train. She spent WWII in London, living in a hostel of similar children. With the help of a Quaker neighbor, they found her younger sister a Quaker sponsor in northern England. Her mother had taken serious piano lessons, and manages to continue.

I pulled this book off of the adult nonfiction shelves at the library (biography section). As an adult biography, this book would be disappointing. But, truly, I believe this should be in the YA section. This tells the story of Lisa Jura from ages 12-21, as she is separated from her family. It tells the story of Lisa's first love and first kiss--a true coming of age story in a horrible time. In spite of the wartime horrors, it is surprisingly sanitary and upbeat.

Ages 10 and up, perhaps younger for children familiar with Holocaust history.

Though the author tells us what happened to Mrs Cohen, Hans, Gunter, etc, she does not mention Mrs Canfield or the Bates family (Quakers)--which seems a huge omission after the amount of text devoted to finding a sponsor for Sonia. Did the nuns return? What about Mr Hardesty and the Kindertransport workers? What about Mrs McRae from the factory? Did Lisa Jura or Sonia keep in touch with any of these people? Did the author try to find them?

" said.

"In this poignant memoir, Mona Golabek takes readers on an unforgettable journey through the life of her mother, Lisa Juda, during the terrifying years of World War II. Only fourteen and living in Vienna with her two sisters and parents, the import of Hitler’s regime becomes startlingly clear to Lisa when her piano teacher tells her that he can no longer teach her because she is Jewish. Kristallnacht occurs soon afterward, and Lisa’s parents know that it their home is no longer safe. They secure a treasured ticket on the Kindertransport and arrange for Lisa to travel to her father’s cousin in London. However, there is no place for her with her relatives, and after working as a servant for several months, Lisa ends up at Willesden Lane, a home for child refugees. Under the care of Mrs. Cohen, Lisa obtains a job and adjusts to her new life, yet never forgets her family, especially as the war reaches England. A musical prodigy, Lisa continues to play as a tribute to her mother, who told her to use her gift. Despite the hardships and horror of war, Lisa remains an inspiration to those around her as she works to accomplish her dream of becoming a concert pianist. With its simple language and heartrending honesty, this memoir is a beautifully evocative portrayal of a teenager’s life as a refugee, a unique narrative that is certain to stir a chord with readers." said.

"This is a fascinating, nuanced, and beautifully written book. While it by no means represents the experiences of all the kindertransport children, it provides a detailed description of the journey of several. It also gives us a very different view of the British home front, adding a nice depth to the narrative. Despite being written by the protagonist's daughter, it doesn't pull any punches: Lisa's dedication to her music occasionally led to emotions and behaviors that could be read as selfishness or self-centeredness (as is often the case in the employment of such talent, and I say that without criticism or judgment), and the reader is shown that. But the most important aspect of Lisa's story, and the most telling about what the people in it endured during those years, is the inspiration that the people around her derived from that dedication and from the music itself.

My only argument with this book, and it is a slight one stemming from my own background, is that it might have been a good choice to present it as a novelization (as Keneally did with Schindler). Not only is it derived from Lisa's memory, but then from Mona's as well. This is not to say that it is not credible, but my inner historian says that methodologically the conversations (and there are many) can in most cases only be "based on" or recreations of the type of thing that was probably said in such a circumstance. Further, the Author's Note points out that several characters are amalgamations of more than one person (again, as Keneally did in Schindler's List. That's not a bad thing; indeed, I tend to get irritated by a cast of too many characters to keep straight. But it might have made sense to categorize the "memoir" as a novelization.

This is a quick read, and well worth it.
" said.

"I just adored this book hence the five stars.

Lisa Jura was a Viennese Jew and a talented Pianist as a young teenager. Her world was turned upside down after Kristallnacht when she saw her father beaten and forced to scrub the streets whilst stripped naked. Her parents had the foresight to realised that the situation was getting worse and managed to secure one place for one of their three daughters on the Kindertransport which was a train carrying Jewish children to Britain and hence safety prior to the beginning of WWII. Her mothers passing message is that she mustn't forget her music which has always been both of their passions. On the day of her departure Lisa packs sheet music of Debussy's Clair de lune, a piece that she associates with her mother.

After working initially as a ladies maid, she leaves her employer and ends up in a Jewish refuge Hostel at Willesden Lane, London. I loved the descriptions of her friendships with the other children/young adults in the hostel, the images of Wartime London and the music that she played. The matron of the hostel recognises Lisa's talent for music and encourages her to practise daily on the Hostel's piano. She eventually auditions for a scholarship at a leading London music college.

The story takes us all through the war years until D Day and a little beyond.

I've read several books about the Kindertransport. If you enjoy this book you'll also love Other People's houses by Lori Segal, another 'Kinder'. There is also a superb documentary about the Kindertransport called 'Into the Arms of strangers' which helps to understand the emotions that the children went through when leaving their parents and the pressure on arrival to try and get them out of danger and into Britain by any means possible.

" said.

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