Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss

This is the story of a Dutch-Jewish family in Holland during World War II, specifically the story of Annie, the family's youngest daughter. Through Annie's eyes, the audience lives the harsh reality of having the Nazi Army invade their country. The family has heard the news of what is happening Jews throughout Europe, and realizes that they are in grave danger.

As the Germans begin to implement more and more restrictions on the Jews in their city and begins to take the Jews to "work camps," Annie's father arranges to have the family sent away and into hiding. Unfortunately, Annie's mother is very sick and must stay in the hospital during this time. Annie's father goes to one part of Holland while Annie and one of her older sisters (Sini) head to a different area to stay with another family. The oldest sister, Rachel, opts to stay behind with her mother and eventually finds safety with yet another family.

The first family that is hiding Annie and Rachel must move them for their own safety, so the girls move in with the Oosterveld family for two weeks. Two years later, the Germans are defeated in Holland and the girls are freed and allowed to safely return home and are reunited with their family.

This book is Annie’s description of what life is like living basically like a prisoner in a stranger’s home as she is not allowed to be seen by anyone. She cannot go outside, she rarely gets to visit other children her age, and her life is put in danger often. However, she makes some lifelong friends in the Oosterveld family, for without them, Annie’s story may have been much different.

What I Thought:
What a powerful story! I could not imagine being a young girl and trapped in a small house for years, not to mention rarely getting to go outside or socialize with my peers.

While my favorite kids book about this time period is Lois Lowry's Number the Stars, I think this book is another excellent addition to literature dealing with WWII, the Holocaust, and those who lived through the nightmare.

This book is a Newbery Honor Book and an ALA Notable Children's Book.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss.

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