Lisel’s Ocean Rescue by noted children’s author Barbara Krasner, recounts the story of Liesl Joseph, a 10-year-old girl aboard the ill-fated MS St. Louis. On May 13, 1939, together with her parents and 900 other Jewish refugees they left Germany on the MS. St Louis attempting to seek temporary asylum in Cuba.
Barbara Krasner is a historian and professor of creative writing. She publishes the popular blog, The Whole Megillah: The Writer’s Resource for Jewish-Themed Story. She runs workshops and conferences for Jewish writers at the Highlights Foundation and in conjunction with the Association of Jewish Libraries. Barbara has a B.A. in German from Douglass College, an M.B.A. in Marketing from the Rutgers Business School and an M.F.A. in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is a candidate for the M.A. in Applied Historical Studies at William Paterson University.
Illustrator Avi Katz was born in Philadelphia where he studied in the Schechter and Akiba schools as well as the Fleischer Art Memorial. After three years at U.C. Berkeley he moved to Israel at age 20, where he graduated in Fine Arts from the Bezalel Art Academy. He was the staff artist of the Jerusalem Report Magazine from its first issue in 1990 until 2012, and is active in the international Cartooning for Peace program. He has illustrated over 160 books in Israel and the U.S. including the National Jewish Book Award winning JPS Illustrated Children’s Bible. His books have also won the IBBY Hans Christian Andersen Honors four times and Israel’s Ze’ev Prize six times. His art has been exhibited in Israel, America and Europe.
Liesl’s Ocean Rescue exposes elementary school children to a subject not often covered in a school’s history lessons — the advent of the Nazi regime’s persecution of the Jewish people and the struggle for them to find sanctuary outside of Germany. The story, based on the real-life experiences of Liesl Joseph and her family, begins on Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938. The destruction of that night and the terror of the Jewish people is told from the perspective of a young child who little comprehends the implications of the Nazi laws and the arrest of her father. Krasner does a good job of expressing the confusion and fear that Liesl faced. But hope of rescue and safety are never left out of the story. The phrase “everything will be all right” is continually repeated. The family’s escape on the MS St Louis is an adventure for Liesl, but the gravity of the situation, no country to welcome the passengers, is never far from the reader’s mind.
The message of hope is important in Liesl’s Ocean Rescue as is the warning to never forget. The illustrations reinforce the culture of the era. A good book to share with your child or classroom, it should open further conversation on the evil of the world and our responsibility to confront it.
Audience: children ages 8-12.
(Thanks to Gihon River Press and iRead Book Tours for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)