My Family for the War is the captivating story of ten-year-old Franziska, a Protestant-raised girl with Jewish ancestors caught in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power. As restrictions tighten around Ziska’s family, her parents feel they have no choice but to send her out of Germany on the Kindertansport. Stuck in an English orphanage, Ziska finally finds a home with an Orthodox Jewish family. Ziska, now called Frances, struggles to adjust to a very different life style. Adored by her new brother and father, Frances finds the mother, Amanda, quite cold. Amanda, however, is responding to Frances, whose thoughts are consumed with finding a way to bring her ‘real family’ out of Germany to join them in England. It is the slow journey made by both Frances and Amanda toward understanding and eventually loving each other that will capture anyone who reads this story.
My Family for the War is also the story of a country sucked into a war from which it believes itself to be safe. As this safety net dissolves, Frances’ family and friends come to cope with and accept the war that eventually envelops them. It is an excellent look at World War II. Voorhoeve doesn’t pull her punches — she includes food rationing, bombings and even touches on the tragedy a war brings. When Frances is sent to an internment camp for German citizens, readers see the many sides of injustice imposed by a country in turmoil. Yet all of this is handled in a gentle manner with a middle grade audience in mind.
The story is riveting and I spent many late nights reading chapter after chapter. It will hold the interest of young readers ages ten and up. It is an excellent introduction to the war and to the situation faced by Jewish children sent away by desperate parents. It includes themes of interest to all children: struggling to find one’s own identity, family, and growing up in a world that doesn’t always play fairly. It’s a great read and highly recommended.
Marcia Berneger is a retired teacher who lives with her husband and three crazy dogs. She taught both first and second grade, as well as special education. She currently teaches Torah school, in addition to her volunteer work in classrooms, libraries, and with various fundraisers. She lives in San Diego.