Journey To America by Sonia Levitin is our latest read aloud from the Word War 2 Era. If you are concerned about the worst of history repeating itself in our children’s lifetime, this is an eye-opening book to read. Much of what is happening here today was happening in Germany, circa 1938.
The story is told through the eyes of an 11 year old Jewish girl, Lisa Platt, her two sisters, Ruth and Annie, and their mother, as they seek to leave Germany for America while they still have a small window of opportunity.
Sensing that life under Hitler’s rule will continue to worsen for his family, Lisa’s father leaves the country ahead of the rest. He must prove he is capable of supporting his family in order to obtain the necessary paperwork for them to join him, so he takes up a job as a janitor in America.
The rules and restrictions in Germany keep changing, tightening. While they wait for word from their father that everything is in place for their trip across the ocean, the girls and their mother escape to Switzerland “on vacation.”
They know they can’t convince the border guards they’re strictly leaving for a holiday with all their possessions in tow, so they travel with little more than the clothes on their backs, one stick of salami, a few pieces of jewelry to sell if necessary, and no plans to turn back.
Mother’s desperate plea for help is denied by the Swiss refugee agency because they chose to leave Germany out of their own free will. Only Jews who have been “forced” to flee are eligible for assistance. Since they are not facing “real” persecution, Lisa, along with her mother and sisters, must find a way to survive one hardship after another while they wait for Father to send for them. (Spoiler alert: he does, and the whole family is reunited in the land of freedom).
The gruesome violence and horror of the Holocaust is left out without compromising the story, making this living, historical fiction book applicable for all ages. I’d recommend Journey To America as a read aloud to every family.