by Judith Kerr, published 1972
“Next morning before school Anna ran into Papa’s room to see him. The desk was tidy. The bed was neatly made. Papa had gone.”
This autobiographical novel is an unusual children’s book about WWII. Rather than depicting all the brutality that happened, it focuses on the life of one refugee family, which in this case is the author’s family. Judith Kerr was a children’s book author who was about 10 when her family fled Nazi Germany in 1933. They moved from place to place, each time finding both the best and worst in humanity as they were either accepted or rejected simply based on their religion and political views (anti-Hitler.)
This children’s book is an excellent look into the minds and temperament of the pre-war days. It would make an excellent book for a class discussion on the impact that war has on innocent children. It is interesting to discover that the difficulties don’t necessarily have to make one embittered or despairing. The relocations and upheavals were, for Anna, a cause for deepening her commitment to her family and realizing what truly mattered in life was human connection. It can inspire those who look back with regret on having to leave their homeland. This is not to say this children’s book whitewashes the challenges. Rather, it is a heartfelt account of leaving behind, and making the most of what the future brings.
I have been told that this children’s book is part of a trilogy on the same subject, tracking Anna through her next few new homes. I haven’t read them, but I imagine them to be of the same quality.