The story of Stephie Steiner, a Jewish girl who left her parents in Nazi-occupied Germany on the Kindertransport to live with a foster family on a remote island off the coast of Sweden, continues in this companion to the Batchelder award-winning novels, A Faraway Islandand The Lily Pond.
Stephie is now attending school in the city of Goteborg and living with her friend May’s family. But if her grant money from the relief committee expires, how will she finish her schooling and accomplish her dream of becoming a doctor?
Her best friend Vera is manipulated by a sleazy photographer into posing for nude photographs and ends up pregnant at age 16. Stephie’s younger sister, who was only seven years old when they arrived in Sweden, is leading a completely separate life, and Stephie feels as if she has broken the promise she made to her parents to take care of her.
Stephie also begins to question her decision to become baptized into the Pentecostal congregation but is afraid that if she rejects Jesus she will lose her foster parents’ love. And, with the thirty-word postcards from Mama and Papa in Theresienstadt few and far between, Stephie’s anxiety increases and she finds it more and more difficult to have hope that they will ever be a family again.
Despite all of these hardships, Stephie is growing into a strong and capable young woman anchored by the support of her teacher and mentor Miss Bjork, her foster parents, and her friends. Whereas Faraway Island and The Lily Pondwere middle-grade novels, the inclusion of more difficult and mature topics like drinking, date rape, and the death of Stephie’s mother make Deep Sea more appropriate for older readers. To fully understand Stephie’s story, and place it in historical context, teens should be encouraged to read the series in order. Readers will anxiously await the translations of the fourth and final book and can only hope that the award-winning eight-part Swedish television series will become available as well.
Rachel Kamin is the Director of the Joseph and Mae Gray Cultural & Learning Center at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park, Illinois. A past chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee, Rachel is currently the co-editor of Book Reviews for Children & Teens for the Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter. She holds a BA in history from Grinnell College and a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Michigan.