The Children of Willesden Lane: A True Story of Hope and Survival During World War II (Young Readers Edition)
Authors: Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen
Adapted by: Emil Sher
Publisher: Little Brown and Company, 2017
Source: Personal Purchase
Our story begins in Vienna in 1938 when Lisa Jura, a fourteen-year old budding pianist, is told by her piano teacher that he will no longer be giving her lessons. A new ordinance forbids it because Lisa is Jewish. Other sinister changes are beginning to take place. There is a sign outside her father’s tailor shop: Jewish business. At school the Jewish students have been separated from the other students.
The Jura family gets an opportunity. One of their three daughters will be able to leave Vienna on the Kindertransport, “The Children’s Train,” which is bringing thousands of Jewish children to safety in England to be placed in private homes, farms, or hostels. Lisa’s older sister is over eighteen and not eligible, so the family must decide between Lisa and her younger sister, Sonia. Lisa is sent first, with the hopes that the rest of the family will be able to find ways to follow. As she is leaving on the train, her mother makes her promise that she will hold on to her music.
Despite nearly impossible odds, Lisa does manage it. The cousin who was to give her a home is unable to do so. She is brought to Bloomsbury House with other unclaimed children. She is first sent to Peacock Manor, but runs away back to Bloomsbury House when the mistress of the house refuses to help Lisa get Sonia to England.
From there Lisa is sent to a hostel at 243 Willesden Lane. Here, with thirty-one other children from ages ten to seventeen, Lisa will endure the sadness of being separated from family, crowded living conditions, hard working conditions, bombings that even destroy the hostel, and the loss of people who have become important in her life. However, it is here that she also finds friendship and courage. Perhaps most importantly, Lisa is allowed to continue her study of music and as a result earns a scholarship to study music at the Royal Academy of Music.
This story is truly inspirational. The additional material at the end – the interview with Mona Golabek, the historical information and discussion questions (my personal favorite!) – combine to make this not only a great story, but a wonderful classroom resource.