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

Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen; Emil Sher, adaptation
  • Review
July 14, 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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