The Ship to Nowhere: On Board the Exodus by Rona Arato

ship-to-nowhere-510uex6ka3l__sx404_bo1204203200_The Ship to Nowhere: On Board the Exodus

Rona Arato, Author

Second Story Press, Fiction, Oct. 6, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Pages: 155

Themes: Jewish Refugees, Escape by Ship, Exodus 1947 (Ship), Holocaust Remembrance,

Book Synopsis: World War II is over and 11-year-old Rachel Landesman and her family are determined to find a country where they can build a new life. They have decided to leave Europe on board the Exodus, a dilapidated ship smuggling 4,500 Jewish refugees to their biblical homeland, known as Palestine.

Despite having just survived the Holocaust, the refugees are willing to risk their lives again for a home free from hatred and oppression. But as war ships and soldiers quickly surround the Exodus, they realize their journey will not be easy. While Rachel, like the other children on board, plays games and makes friends, she also struggles to understand the politics and setbacks that plague their voyage. At times, it seems they will never be allowed to reach their new home. Nonetheless, the passengers refuse to give up hope. Their fight to find a place to live in peace will influence history.

Why I like this book:

  • Rona Arato has written a moving story based on the true experiences of 11-year-old Rachel Landesman, her family and the 4,500 Jewish refugees being smuggled to their homeland, known as Palestine. Despite the extreme hardships and the constant threat of the British warships trailing their ship, Rachel remains strong and entertains the children with games and activities.
  • The setting is vivid and realistic. The refugees are packed like sardines on two decks meant for 300 passengers. Rachel and her family are lucky to get a bunk bed, while others sleep on the deck. There is lack of water and food at times, deplorable bathroom conditions, and unimaginable fear and suffering when the five British destroyers attack the ship as it nears Palestinian waters. It nearly sinks.
  • Readers will be captivated by Rachel’s spirit and strong will. The strength in the book is in the bravery, determination and resolve of the refugees to not give up on their dream. They fight the British with fists, sticks and canned goods as the soldiers board the badly damaged ship. When the refugees are turned away from Palestine and put on another ship sailing to France, they refuse to disembark in France.  Their spirit and refusal to give up on their dream is truly inspiring.
  • The author did a remarkable amount of research. Many of the characters in the book are real people who made the treacherous journey on the Exodus 1947 — Rachel, her mother and sister, Captain Ike, second officer Yossi Harel, American volunteer Bill Bernstein, newspaper reporter Ruth Gruber and the many Haganah men and women who organized and ran the movement of illegal ships that tried to carry Jewish refugees to Palestine. Their journey is documented with real photos, bringing the story to life. The plight of the passengers on board the Exodus gained worldwide attention. It influenced the UN to vote for the creation of the state of Israel.
  • In her Preface, Rona Arato, says “that the story Rachel and its brave passengers and crew is especially relevant today because of the world’s ongoing refugee crisis. Millions of refugees around the world continue to seek safe havens where they can live in dignity and freedom.”
  • The author has taken a difficult story and told it with sensitivity for middle grade readers. It is a “Holocaust Remembrance Book for Young Readers” and will be a welcomed addition to any school’s library.

Check other Middle Grade review links on author Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.

Note: Watch for Multicultural Children’s Book Day, which will be celebrated on Jan. 27, 2017.  Hashtag: #ReadYourWorld.

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.

28 thoughts on “The Ship to Nowhere: On Board the Exodus by Rona Arato

    • It was an eye opener for me. I remember the Paul Newman movie, Exodus, based on the worldwide attention on the plight of this voyage and the UN creation of the state of Israel, but was too young to really understand the significance. This is the first book for young people about the ship that helped make history.


  1. This sounds terrific. We often forget that dealing with the aftermath of a tragedy can be as much of a struggle as surviving during the event. Sounds like a powerful book.


  2. I LOVE refugee stories, and we need more of them these days. Do you know why the book is called The Ship to Nowhere? Because it seems like the ship’s destination is important. Thanks.


    • Yes, I do believe we need more refugee stories today. The ship’s destination is Palestine, but they are not permitted to land. So they spend 10 months sailing to France, where the British want them to disembark, but they refuse because they know how the French treated their Jewish community. They are heading nowhere, until international attention is gained. They end up back in Hamburg, Germany in a refugee camp until finally the UN intervenes. They are allowed to sail to the new state of Israel. Talk about hardships, especially since many had been in concentration camps during the war. Many were orphan children hidden or smuggled out of Germany. Just a remarkable story told through the eyes of Rachel, who lived it.


  3. I remember hearing about this ship when I was young. It is important to keep this part of history alive. Especially now as children hear about refugees daily and often have classmates that have been in similar situations.


    • The timing of the release of this book for teens is important because of the Syrian and other refugee situations in the world. I wasn’t born yet, but I vaguely remember the story about the ship when I saw Paul Newman’s movie, Exodus. The author includes a very interesting note at the end that focuses on the real people mentioned in the story and the fate of the ship.


    • I never read Leon Uris’ novel, but saw the movie at a young age. I am so delighted this book will find its way into school libraries where it can be read by students and used in the classroom. I always love books that humanize history for young people!


  4. Wow, this sounds like a very powerful book! Especially since it was based on a true story. Turning any war story into ‘middle grade sensitive’ is hard, but I’m glad to hear the author was able to do it! Thanks for the review!


    • I’m glad you enjoyed the review. I was thrilled to read and review this new book. The author is sensitive in telling the story, but gets her points across. And, what better way to hear the story, than through a child’s personal experience.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You always pick the best & most timely books! Middle grade is not generally my genre (for reading or writing), but I so often find myself wanting to read the books you review. Today’s pick is no exception.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Nice review 😀 Patricia, I am ALways impressed by historical fiction based on real events and people. I never knew of the Exodus ship and this sounds very interesting. For some reason, Anne Frank came to mind :-\


  7. The refugee crisis worldwide is huge. We do need books to help kids understand and empathize. This is a segment of WWII history I know little about and it looks like a great book to buy for our library. Thank you.


    • I agree with you. We need books to help kids understand the refugee crisis. Yes, I didn’t know the story of the ship. I was too young to understand the movie, Exodus. I’m reading another book right now that is truly remarkable.


    • So glad you are interested in checking it out, Erik. I know you’ll like this true story! Although it is written as historical fiction, it has photographs and sidebars of information on people involved.


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