A Faraway Island by Annika Thor (Published by Random House, November 10, 2009)
Following the invasion of Austria by the Nazis, two young Jewish sisters from Vienna, twelve-year-old Stephie Steiner and her eight-year-old sister, Nellie, are sent away by their parents to safety in Sweden. Their parents hopes the family can reunite soon and travel to a safer country, but shortly after the sisters arrive in Sweden, World War II breaks out in Europe, trapping the two young girls in a strange and foreign country, away from their parents.
The two girls are placed in separate homes on a small island in Sweden, and have very different experiences. Nellie loves her foster parents, who have young children of their own. Stephie however is placed with a seemingly cold and unloving childless couple. While the younger Nellie quickly adapts to life in a strange new country, Stephie struggles to learn the new language, and feels like an outcast in school. Will she ever adjust to her new country and new life? And what will become of the parents she left behind?
Before reading A Faraway Island, I had never even heard of the story of the 500 Jewish refugee children Sweden accepted just before the start of World War II. The author, Annika Thor, grew up in a Jewish family in Sweden and had young refugee cousins who had fled the Nazis in Europe. She has published three other books about Stephie and Nellie in Sweden, that tell the rest of their story during and shortly after World War II, and I hope to see them published in English so I can find out the rest of of the story. This book would make a good choice for preteens looking to supplement their learning about World War II with historical fiction, as well as for any reader looking for a unique story set in this time period.