Liesl’s Ocean Rescue

Liesl's Ocean 51Go9YPulaL__SX348_BO1,204,203,200_Liesl’s Ocean Rescue

Barbara Krasner, Author

Avi Katz, Illustrations

Gihon River Press, Nonfiction, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 6-9

Themes: Liesl Joseph, Jewish children and families, Refugees, MS St. Louis, Seeking Asylum, Cuba, America

Opening: “What fun we had last night,” Josef Joseph, said. “It was the best birthday yet.” “You’re very old now, Father, “Liesl said. “You’re 56!” Mother placed breakfast plates in front of them.

Synopsis: Ten-year-old Liesl and her family were enjoying breakfast when two uniformed men wearing Nazi swastika armbands burst into their home and arrested her father. That 1938 night in Rheydt, Jewish businesses were destroyed and synagogues were burned. It was called the “Night of the Broken Glass.” Liesl’s father was eventually released from jail.  Her family along with 1,000 Jewish refugees, fled Germany in May 1939, aboard the MS St. Louis ocean liner, for temporary asylum in Havana, Cuba and later in America. But when they approached the island that looked like a paradise to Liesl, the ship wasn’t permitted to dock. They were stranded for weeks sailing back and forth between Cuba and the United States not knowing if they’d be sent back to Germany.

Why I like this book:

Barbara Krasner has written a compelling story based on the true experiences of Liesl Joseph, a courageous and endearing 10-year-old, who is heroic in her own way. Despite her own fear, she does her best to keep up the spirits of the children aboard the ship. She plays games and reassures them things will turn out okay. Her father, a lawyer, is busy negotiating arrangements with the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Paris, for safe passage to other European countries.

I am drawn to Holocaust stories, especially those involving children. Liesl’s story is one I had a hard time understanding. Why would the United States deny these refugees a home away from the tyranny of Hitler? Since this is a story about a child’s experience, that question is not addressed. However the story delivers a powerful message for older children about remaining brave in the midst of fear and uncertainty.

Liesl’s Ocean Rescue is an excellent addition to any school’s Holocaust collection. Although this is a picture book, I believe it would also serve well as a chapter book for older children. My only negative comment is that I felt the story ended abruptly.

Avi Katz’s black and white illustrations are expressive and capture emotions ranging from the fear during the German raids to the anxious moments of the refugees aboard the ship.

Resources: Make sure you read the Author’s Note at the end of the book to learn more about Liesl’s journey and fate. The author interviews Liesl Joseph Loeb at her home. Krasner also provides information on other resources to use with this story. There is a Teacher’s Guide at Gihon River Press.  Visit Krasner at her website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

36 thoughts on “Liesl’s Ocean Rescue

  1. Pat, Thanks for reviewing this book. It’s an interesting question why the U.S. would not grant asylum to the refugees. Surprised the author didn’t dig into the matter further.


    • I was so shocked by Cuba and U.S. not grant asylum to 900 Jewish refugees. The author in her note at the end shares the same concern, but offers no definitive reason. She interviewed Liesl Joseph before she passed in 2013. Liesl and her family finally made it Philadelphia in 1940. But I still don’t know the reason why the U.S. and Cuba said no. The European nations stepped in, due to the efforts of Liesl’s father. There is a book Riding the Storm Waves: The St. Louis Diary of Fritz Buff, 2009.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I just finished re-reading The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank, after recently visiting the house her and her family hid in. Reading about these terrible events from the perspective of a child is very eye opening. This book is timely as the refugee crisis is very much in the news again and may help children understand what is at stake for people who can´t stay in their home country for political reasons. Most of us just can´t imagine.


    • We are on the same wave length with our recent posts. I’ve always wanted to visit the house of Anne Frank. I like hearing about the holocaust from a child’s perspective. And, it is timely with the refugee crisis today.


      • I do hope you get to visit Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam. It requires a wait in line (we waited 1.5 hours) but it is worth it.


      • I hope so too. In the movie “Fault in the Stars,” the Hazel Grace and her boyfriend travel to Holland and visit Anne Frank’s house. Saw the stairways. So, I got a peek.


  3. Thank you so much for letting us know about this book! Just the other day, someone came into our shop in San Mateo and asked to see any picture books we might have about refugees. This one will certainly get added to our list! The number of Jews and other refugees that could have been saved, had the United States and other countries taken in those trying to escape Hitler is staggering. The Statue of Liberty weeps.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello, good to hear from you. Thank you for your comments. So many more refugees could have been saved the Hitler regime. Many countries turned on their Jewish citizens. I like searching for the books that add a different perspective to what happened.


  4. Like you, I’m drawn to books about WW II and the Holocaust Patricia. This one addresses an aspect I’ve not yet seen addressed for children. So incredibly sad, and as others said, timely.
    I have to say, though, the beginning struck me as a bit strange! Papa is old at 56?!


    • I’m glad you enjoyed my review. This story is new to me, that’s why I like looking for different angles to Holocaust stories for children and adults. It was a different time and 56 was considered older 70 years ago. I remember seeing pictures of my grandparents in the 1950s and they looked so much older.

      If you like adult Holocaust books too, check out Kristin Hannah’s “Nightingale,” which is being made into a movie. Excellent historical fiction.


  5. This story brings back memories for me of the stories my mother told of her escape from Germany during the time of Hitler. When I think about how my mother came dangerously close to being killed, I am beyond thankful for the trivial but well-timed event that saved her life. This book sounds quite fascinating. I’m looking forward to reading it.


    • I’m so pleased you enjoyed the story. How fascinating! I hope you recorded your mother’s stories. Could that trivial but well-timed event, be written into a children’s book.


  6. I think there is a place for picture books for readers that are slightly older. For English language learners, for struggling readers, for those who are drawn to the art. These kids need “real” books that challenge their thinking and let them react on their more mature level. Excellent choice! Thanks for sharing.


  7. Very interesting – what a great resource for the classroom to promote further research. I’m drawn to WWII stories in general, esp after realizing how very little we actually learned in school.


  8. I’m glad that Liesl and her family were finally permitted to enter the country. It’s enlightening for people to read about the different plights of various Jews who suffered. Having visited Anne Frank’s hiding home/museum and the museum of a local woman who actually lived through Concentration Camp and immigrated to the U.S. after the war, it’s heartening to read about someone who was somewhat more fortunate during WWII.


    • My comment may have to someone else may have been misleading. Yes, she was one of the lucky ones, but Liesl and the 900 passengers weren’t allowed to enter the U.S. Her father finally negotiated an agreement for refugee status with other European countries. However, her family finally made it to Philadelphia on their own in 1940 and she was fortunate.

      Lucky you, I’ve always wanted to visit Anne Frank’s home/museum.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I remember hearing about this situation, but I will need to read this book to find out more. I believe I heard they were afraid that it would have Nazi sympathizers on board which is why they did not want to allow them to dock. I love non-fiction stories like this one. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.


    • I hadn’t heard about the Nazi sympathizers being a reason. There is an adult book Riding the Storm Waves: The St. Louis Diary of Fritz Buff, 2009, written by someone onboard the ship. I know I’d like to read more about the situation.


  10. What a moving story, Pat. I love reading about those who have had to struggle and World War11 stories. With the refugee crisis this is very timely. Children need to know what is going on, even today. Great choice.


  11. You always pick the most timely & interesting books! Thank you for bringing this one to my attention; I’m saddened to think, though, how we could turn our backs then, and so many advocate doing it still.


  12. Like you I am drawn to holocaust and WWII stories. This is part of the history I knew nothing about. I have just read a great new MG about this period called SKATING WITH THE STATUE OF LIBERTY. Reviewed it on Goodreads.


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