From the safety of one’s home, it’s difficult to imagine the persecution faced by people who flee their countries of origin in order to survive. In this book, young boat refugees from various countries do just that.
The opening chapter details the poignant story of Ruth who, with her family, boards the St. Louis in 1939 to escape Hitler’s Germany for a new life in Cuba. However, as the boat tries to dock in Cuba, they find they are not allowed to come on shore. Hoping that the United States will allow them entrance, the boat attempts to dock in Miami, where they are met by the guns of the U.S. Coast Guard and sent back to Europe. Of the 937 passengers on the St. Louis, 254 were killed by the Hitler régime after returning to Europe. Ruth was one of the lucky ones. She and her family found asylum in Great Britain and were later able to immigrate to the United States.
The following chapters introduce readers to Phu, who flees from Vietnam to avoid his fate as a being a soldier and dying in battle; Jose, who leaves Cuba with his family on an overcrowded, leaking boat to escape the oppression of Castro; Najeeba and her family, who flee the Taliban in Afghanistan and try to make it to Australia; and Mohammed, who escapes the Ivory Coast after his parents are killed by a bomb in the midst of a civil war.
The fact that each of these young people survived is a tribute to their courage, resilience and luck. Sadly, as the book illustrates, these desperate and dangerous escapes are not relegated to the past.
The book includes a timeline, sidebars, and suggestions for additional reading. Due to its frank discussion of war and death and descriptions of frightening situations, this book is recommended for ages 12 and up.