by Gratz, Alan

Although separated by continents and decades, Josef, a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany; Isabel, a Cuban girl trying to escape the riots and unrest plaguing her country in 1994; and Mahmoud, a Syrian boy in 2015 whose homeland is torn apart by violence and destruction, embark on harrowing journeys in search of refuge, discovering shocking connections that tie their stories together.

Alan Gratz is the acclaimed author of several books for young readers, including Refugee; Projekt 1065, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2016; Prisoner B-3087, a Junior Library Guild selection that was named to YALSA's 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults list; Code of Honor, a YALSA 2016 Quick Pick; and The Brooklyn Nine, which was among Booklist's Top Ten Historical Books. Alan lives in North Carolina with his wife and daughter. Look for him online at

After the horror of Kristallnacht, Josef's family knows it's time to leave Germany. In 1994, Isabel hunts for gasoline for the homemade boat that will help her family and neighbors flee Cuba. In 2015, Mahmoud's family is shell-shocked from the long war in Syria, hoping a perilous trek out of Aleppo can bring them to a more peaceful land. Gratz's triptych of alternating refugee stories delivers a gut-wrenching look at the terror of escaping a homeland that offers only repression or death. The young narrators are strongly rendered players in their own family dramas. Josef details the betrayal of Jewish refugees on board the St. Louis, denied asylum by Cuba in 1939. Isabel recounts the shark attack on her flimsy boat in open waters. Mahmoud knows he will "never forget that feeling of paralyzing terror, of powerlessness" in the face of death and humiliation as he bravely soldiers on to Europe. Some readers may prefer to read each story sequentially rather than in separated chapters, but this is a haunting fictional treatment of historic events. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you've ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school-aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact. Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: "See us….Hear us. Help us." With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar. Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author's note) (Historical fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2017 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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