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A Faraway Island

Cover of A Faraway Island

A Faraway Island

A Faraway Island Series, Book 1
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Two Jewish sisters leave Austria during WWII/Holocaust and find refuge in Sweden.

It's the summer of 1939. Two Jewish sisters from Vienna--12-year-old Stephie Steiner and 8-year-old Nellie--are sent to Sweden to escape the Nazis. They expect to stay there six months, until their parents can flee to Amsterdam; then all four will go to America. But as the world war intensifies, the girls remain, each with her own host family, on a rugged island off the western coast of Sweden.

Nellie quickly settles in to her new surroundings. She's happy with her foster family and soon favors the Swedish language over her native German. Not so for Stephie, who finds it hard to adapt; she feels stranded at the end of the world, with a foster mother who's as cold and unforgiving as the island itself. Her main worry, though, is her parents--and whether she will ever see them again.

From the Hardcover edition.

Two Jewish sisters leave Austria during WWII/Holocaust and find refuge in Sweden.

It's the summer of 1939. Two Jewish sisters from Vienna--12-year-old Stephie Steiner and 8-year-old Nellie--are sent to Sweden to escape the Nazis. They expect to stay there six months, until their parents can flee to Amsterdam; then all four will go to America. But as the world war intensifies, the girls remain, each with her own host family, on a rugged island off the western coast of Sweden.

Nellie quickly settles in to her new surroundings. She's happy with her foster family and soon favors the Swedish language over her native German. Not so for Stephie, who finds it hard to adapt; she feels stranded at the end of the world, with a foster mother who's as cold and unforgiving as the island itself. Her main worry, though, is her parents--and whether she will ever see them again.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Languages:-
Copies-
  • Available:
    1
  • Library copies:
    1
Levels-
  • ATOS:
    4.4
  • Lexile:
    680
  • Interest Level:
    MG
  • Text Difficulty:
    3

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Awards-
Excerpts-
  • Chapter One

    The train slows to a halt. A voice over a loudspeaker shouts in an unknown language.

    Stephie presses her nose to the window. Through the steam from the locomotive, she sees a sign and, farther down, a brick building with a glass roof.

    "Are we there, Stephie?" Nellie asks anxiously. "Is this where we get off?"

    "I'm not sure," Stephie answers, "but I think so."

    She stands up on the seat to reach the luggage rack, lifting Nellie's suitcase down first, then her own. Their school knapsacks are on the floor at their feet. They must be sure not to leave anything on the train. This is all they were allowed to bring with them, and it is very little indeed.

    A lady in a summer suit and hat appears in the doorway of their compartment. She addresses them in German.

    "Hurry, hurry," she says. "This is Goteborg. Our destination."

    The lady moves along to the next compartment without waiting for an answer.

    Stephie pulls on her own knapsack, then helps her sister. "Take your suitcase!" she says.

    "It's so heavy," Nellie complains, lifting it anyway. Hand in hand, they walk out into the train corridor. There are already a number of children gathered, all eager to disembark.

    Soon the station platform is crowded with children and luggage. Behind them, the train pulls away, thudding and squealing. Some of the smaller children are crying. One little boy is calling for his mamma.

    "Your mamma's not here," Stephie tells him. "She can't come to you. But you'll be getting a new mother here, one who's just as nice."

    "Mamma, mamma," the little boy wails. The lady in the summer suit lifts him up and carries him.

    "Come along," she says to the other children. "Follow me."

    They walk behind her in a line like ducklings and enter the station, the building with the high, arched glass roof. A man with a big camera moves toward them. The sudden flash is blinding. One of the smaller children screams.

    "Stop it, mister," the lady escorting them says curtly. "You're frightening the young ones."

    The man goes on taking pictures anyway.

    "This is my job, lady," he says. "Yours is to look after the poor little refugee children. Mine is to take the heartbreaking pictures so you'll get more money to do your work."

    He takes a few more shots.

    Stephie turns her face away. She doesn't want to be a refugee child in a heartbreaking picture in some magazine. She doesn't want to be someone people have to give money for.

    The lady leads them to the far end of a large waiting area, part of which has been cordoned off and is full of grown-ups. An older woman with glasses moves toward them.

    "Welcome to Sweden," she says. "We are so glad you got here safely. We represent the local relief committee. You'll be safe here until you can be reunited with your parents."

    This lady speaks German, too, but with a funny accent.

    A younger woman takes out a list and begins calling names: "Ruth Baumann . . . Stephan Fischer . . . Eva Goldberg . . ."

    Every time she calls a name, a child raises his or her hand, then walks over to the lady with the list. The lady double-checks the name against the brown name tags that the child, like all the other children, has hanging from his or her neck. One of the adults who've been waiting steps forward, takes the child, and departs. The children who are too small to respond to the roll call are pointed out and collected from their bench.

    The list is in alphabetical order, so Stephie realizes she and Nellie will have a long wait. Her stomach is aching with hunger, and her whole body longs for a bed to stretch out on. The crowded railway...

About the Author-
  • Annika Thor's novel, A Faraway Island, is the first book in a quartet featuring the Steiner sisters. The books were bestsellers in Sweden and were adapted into a popular television series. She lives in Stockholm.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 30, 2009
    Twelve-year-old Stephie and eight-year-old Nellie Steiner, two Jewish sisters, are forced to leave their home and their parents in Vienna when the Nazis invade, and are placed with different families on an unfamiliar Swedish island (“Gray-brown cliffs and rocks extend along the edge of the ocean.... The end of the world
    , Stephie thinks. This must be the end of the world
    ”). While their parents plan to meet up with them in a few months to escape to America, as time passes and the war advances, hope begins to fade. Adapting to Swedish life is easy and fun for Nellie, but Stephie struggles with the chilly disposition of her caretaker, Aunt Märta. She is a good student, taking to the Swedish language quickly, but she remains an outsider in school. Throughout the year Stephie suffers hardships big and small, and is conflicted after she and her sister are baptized Pentecostal. Thor's debut novel, inspired by true events and first in a series of four books, depicts a vivid and sometimes frightening picture of life as a WWII refugee, as well as the complexities of sisterhood. Ages 8–12.

  • School Library Journal

    December 1, 2009
    Gr 5-8-In this gripping story, Stephie and Nellie, two Austrian Jewish sisters, are evacuated in 1938 from Vienna to a Swedish island and placed in separate foster homes. Twelve-year-old Stephie has promised her parents that she will try to ease her younger sister's way, a burdensome promise to keep. Auntie Alma, Nellie's Swedish mother, is warmer and more welcoming than Auntie Märta, Stephie's more austere foster parent. At first it seems that Nellie will have a more difficult time adjusting, but the opposite happens. Loneliness and a sense of isolation engulf Stephie. The shunning and taunting of cliquish, bigoted girls intensify her longing for home and the familiar, but Stephie bravely perseveres, bolstered by the hope that she will only be separated from her parents for a short time. Unfortunately this does not happen, and the girls must remain on this faraway island. Children will readily empathize with Stephie's courage. Both sisters are well-drawn, likable characters. This is the first of four books Thor has written about the two girls. It is an excellent companion to Lois Lowry's "Number the Stars" (Houghton, 1989), Kit Pearson's "The Sky Is Falling" (Viking, 1990; o.p.), and Olga Levy Drucker's "Kindertransport" (Holt, 1995)."Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ"

    Copyright 2009 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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    Random House Children's Books
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A Faraway Island
A Faraway Island Series, Book 1
Annika Thor
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