The Children of Willesden Lane: A True Story of Hope and Survival During World War II

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers  2017


Fourteen-year-old Lisa is a musical prodigy; her piano playing brings listeners to tears. But suddenly no one will teach her. The Nazis are now in Vienna, and anti-Jewish laws have been enacted. Lisa’s parents make the difficult decision to send her on a kindertransport to London, where she will be safe. Eventually Lisa settles in a home for refugee children—that happens to have a piano. Lisa’s hard work and focus enable her to bring her sister to safety in England. Her playing helps give all the children courage, and eventually leads to an audition and a scholarship to a prestigious music program.

This is a true story (written by the protagonist’s daughter) of a young girl trying to fulfill her parents’ dreams for her. The writing is vivid; you can almost hear the soundtrack in the sections where Lisa is playing her beloved piano. Lisa is an appealing character who rings true; she’s neither naively optimistic, nor utterly despairing—her reaction to VE Day is heartbreaking. Lisa’s ultimate triumph over circumstances, added to the fact that the story is set in relatively safe England, makes the book accessible to a wider audience than most with this subject matter. It’s an excellent addition to WWII refugee stories.

Recommended for ages 8 to 12.

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