Lily Renee, Escape Artist

Tri­na Rob­bins; Anne Tim­mons and Mo Oh, illus.
  • Review
By – January 10, 2012
Lily Renee Wil­helm was four­teen in 1938, a Jew­ish girl from a priv­i­leged Vien­na home whose world was about tobe turned upside down by the war. In this graph­ic biog­ra­phy, Rob­bins, Tim­mons, and Oh bring her vivid­ly to life, describ­ing her bud­ding tal­ent as an arti­s­tand her trips to the bal­let and opera. With her father at the helm of the­Hol­land Amer­i­ca Steamship Com­pa­ny, mon­ey was clear­ly not an issue — until theNazis drove their tanks into town. After Kristall­nacht, Lily’s par­entsasked the fam­i­ly of Lily’s pen pal, Mol­ly, to spon­sor their daugh­ter to move toEng­land. In 1939, Lily’s escape from Aus­tria on the Kinder­trans­port­like­ly saved her life. We know about the con­cen­tra­tion camps, the death­camps and the hard­ships of the Holo­caust. Lily Renee, Escape Artist does not revis­it the­sesub­jects. Instead, it shows us how Lily’s life changed in Eng­land. Treat­ed with dis­dain by her friend’s moth­er, she was expect­ed to do the work ofa domes­tic ser­vant and was denied suf­fi­cient food. Her mis­ery wasex­ac­er­bat­ed by the fact that she could bare­ly speak Eng­lish at the time. She tried hard to find spon­sors for her par­ents so they, too, could escapeAus­tria. Instead of assis­tance, she was offered moretea.” Fed up with her spon­sors, Lily left the house, moved to the­coun­try­side and became a nan­ny. Lat­er she worked as a nurs­es’as­sis­tant. At one point, she was clas­si­fied as an ene­my alien. Ulti­mate­ly, she was reunit­ed with her par­ents in Amer­i­ca where she found workcre­at­ing a com­ic book series with women as the cen­tral pro­tag­o­nists. She­built a suc­cess­ful life for her­self and her fam­i­ly and lived hap­pi­ly ever­after. This is a book about deter­mi­na­tion, hard­ship, and over­comin­gad­ver­si­ty. There aren’t many Holo­caust-themed books that have a hap­pyend­ing, which makes this one all the more plea­sur­able to read. 

Read Tri­na Rob­bin­s’s Posts for the Vis­it­ing Scribe

Great Women, Cut Short

Their (Our) Time Has Come 

Lau­ren Kramer is a Van­cou­ver-based jour­nal­ist, wife, and moth­er with a life­long pas­sion for lit­er­a­ture. Born in Cape Town, South Africa, she has won awards for her writ­ing and report­ed from many cor­ners of the world. Read more of her work at www​.lau​renkramer​.net.

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