Booklist Reviews 2017 November #1
After the horror of Kristallnacht, Josef's family knows it's time to leave Germany. In 1994, Isabel hunts for gasoline for the homemade boat that will help her family and neighbors flee Cuba. In 2015, Mahmoud's family is shell-shocked from the long war in Syria, hoping a perilous trek out of Aleppo can bring them to a more peaceful land. Gratz's triptych of alternating refugee stories delivers a gut-wrenching look at the terror of escaping a homeland that offers only repression or death. The young narrators are strongly rendered players in their own family dramas. Josef details the betrayal of Jewish refugees on board the St. Louis, denied asylum by Cuba in 1939. Isabel recounts the shark attack on her flimsy boat in open waters. Mahmoud knows he will "never forget that feeling of paralyzing terror, of powerlessness" in the face of death and humiliation as he bravely soldiers on to Europe. Some readers may prefer to read each story sequentially rather than in separated chapters, but this is a haunting fictional treatment of historic events. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2018 Spring
Gratz's stirring novel humanizes the plight of refugees worldwide. Alternating chapters follow fictional child refugees from three different eras and nations--Josef in 1939 Germany, Isabel in 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud in 2015 Syria--whose stories ultimately, and surprisingly, converge. The narrative keeps readers on edge throughout these perilous, wrenching journeys but allows for poetic turns during quieter moments of reflection. Copyright 2018 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2017 #6
Gratz's stirring novel humanizes the plight of refugees worldwide. Told in alternating chapters, the book follows fictional child refugees from three different eras whose stories ultimately, and surprisingly, converge. In 1939 Josef and his family, who are Jewish, hope to escape Nazi Germany on the notorious MS St. Louis bound for Cuba. Fifty-plus years later, Isabel's family and their neighbors sail a homemade boat toward Miami away from riots and starvation in Havana. And in 2015 Mahmoud and his family flee war-torn Aleppo by foot, car, and raft to build a new life in Germany. Gratz doesn't downplay the trials that refugees endure, as discrimination, betrayal, death, and the elements themselves bar the way. The narrative keeps readers on edge throughout these perilous, wrenching journeys but allows for suitably poetic turns during quieter moments of reflection: "This trip, this odyssey, was pulling his family apart, stripping them away like leaves from the trees in the fall." An appended author's note details the true circumstances that inspired Gratz's story and includes organizations that help refugees today, reinforcing the novel's timely reminder of humanity's common ground and the need for kindness and charitable actions toward displaced persons. russell perry Copyright 2017 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
PW Reviews 2017 May #4
In this hard-hitting novel, Gratz (