By Author / Illustrator
Nosy Crow Ltd
Paperback / softback
As life for German Jews becomes increasingly perilous, Anna's parents put her on a train leaving for England. But the war follows her to Kent, and soon Anna finds herself caught up in a web of betrayal and secrecy. How can she prove whose side she's on when she can't tell anyone the truth? But actions speak louder than words, and Anna has a dangerous plan... A brilliant and moving wartime adventure from the author of Evie's Ghost. Cover illustration by Daniela Terrazzini.
"Because I believed in Anna, her war came alive for me. Her struggle, her bravery, all those things were completely real and I read the book overnight, unable to put it down. Magnificent, brilliant, heartbreaking." - Fleur Hitchcock, author of Murder in Midwinter. "Moving and utterly enthralling" - Lissa Evans. "A fast-paced adventure, whose elegant prose and cliffhanger chapters should keep even less confident readers gripped to the thrilling end." - Emily Bearn, Daily Telegaph. "It's a tale of bravery and loss that Helen Peters (Evie's Ghost) sets out with the light touch that only rigorous research allow... Peters tells Anna's story of escape with great humanity, and this novel is an excellent way to whet young appetites for classics such as When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr and Carrie's War by Nina Bawden." - Alex O'Connell, The Times, Children's Book of the Week.
Daniel's class at school are learning about the Second World War and the teacher asks if anyone in the class knows someone who lived through that time. Daniel (the narrator of Chapter 1) volunteers that his grandmother came to England from Germany before the war but, on realising how little he knows about his grandmother's past life, he resolves to ask her.
Chapters 2 to 48 are narrated by Anna, Daniel's grandmother, as she tells him how she came to England before the war and what her life was like during it. The final two chapters are again narrated by Daniel as he prepares a special celebration for his grandmother's 90th birthday.
Anna begins her story on the 9th of November 1938, a date which became known as Kristallnacht, when life for Jews in Germany became even more difficult and dangerous than it had ever been. Anna's parents send Anna to England on the Kindertransport while they sort out the necessary papers to join her in due course. The outbreak of war, however, puts paid to that plan and Anna remains with her foster parents in a Kent village. Life in Kent is also touched by war and, one day, Anna and her friends discover a man in the barn with a suspicious story which leads them into contact with the army, Winston Churchill and much danger.
Anna at War is one of those excellent books that combines an exciting, gripping story with an emotional and moral backdrop. There are so many 'what would you do in this situation?' moments when Anna and the people around her find themselves swept along by events and forced to make choices. The author's research into the lives of children brought out of Germany on the Kindertransport is extensive and there are little details here and there in the story of Anna's journey to her new foster family which will make it so real for the book's young readers.
The writing is crisp and direct and does not flinch from describing a terrible period of history in a way that its young audience will understand. The prejudice Anna faces in England following the start of the war is well described, as is the way even her friend Molly is manipulated into doubting her. There is a satisfying ending, though perhaps not the obvious one, which does not compromise the reality of the situation.
Confident, independent young readers will quickly become absorbed in Anna's story and it would work brilliantly as a class novel in support of the curriculum on the Second World War with its particular slant on child refugees. Adults, too, should read it as an excellent example of how to broach horrific world events with young people.
320 pages / Reviewed by June Hughes, school librarian
Suggested Reading Age 9+