Chil­dren’s

Deep Sea

Anni­ka Thor; Lin­da Sch­neck, trans.
  • Review
By – March 23, 2017

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.

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