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Warsaw, Poland. The year is 1940 and Lillia is 15 when her mother, Alenka, disappears and her father flees with Lillia and her younger sister, Naomi, to Shanghai, one of the few places that will accept Jews without visas. There they struggle to make a life; they have no money, there is little work, no decent place to live, a culture that doesn't understand them. And always the worry about Alenka. How will she find them? Is she still alive? Meanwhile Lillia is growing up, trying to care for Naomi, whose development is frighteningly slow, in part from malnourishment. Lillia finds an outlet for her artistic talent by making puppets, remembering the happy days in Warsaw when they were circus performers. She attends school sporadically, makes friends with Wei, a Chinese boy, and finds work as a performer at a "gentlemen's club" without her father's knowledge. But meanwhile the conflict grows more intense as the Americans declare war and the Japanese force the Americans in Shanghai into camps. More bombing, more death. Can they survive, caught in the crossfire?
Lillia, fifteen, flees Warsaw with her father and baby sister in 1940 to try to make a new start in Shanghai, China, but the conflict grows more intense as America and Japan become involved.
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<anon I1="BLANK" I2="BLANK">Heime, Home 1940 I first saw Shanghai from over my father's shoulder. I was feverish the final two weeks on the ship, as if my hair had been protecting my head and once I was without it, sickness leaked in. I missed the last three ports: Penang, Singapore, Hong Kong. Of course I wouldn't have been allowed off the ship anyway, but I was sorry not to have seen them. When I woke, soaked with broken fever, we were descending the ship's gangplank, Papa carrying Naomi, me, and all of our things. So I guess it was for the best that we had so little with us. As far as I could see there were human beings, throbbing with heat, an electric mob of running, waving, shouting. There were animals and also men pulling carts, racing, climbing onto and off of boats so rickety they looked as if they'd been made by hand from paper, people entering and exiting buildings; everywhere store fronts and signs covered with slashes and dots that made a language I couldn't understand. I reached across Papa's neck and held Naomi's hand. "What day is it?" I heard him say, "July." We had been traveling for over a month, and now it was July and we were here, in Shanghai. Out from the endless rush of people carrying meat, lumber, bricks, passengers, giant pieces of glass emerged a man on a bicycle. He was the first person I could see individually somehow. There were so many of us. He had brown skin and bright eyes, and was watching the street ahead of him. How was he balancing his bicycle? The back was stacked with so many packages it looked like a house made of boxes. A pole crossed his neck and shoulders; from each end hung pails that seemed to pull the metal down, bending it on either side and digging a groove in his flesh. He moved so slowly through the hot street. He was the first Chinese person I'd seen, and he looked the same as anyone else, but also different. I felt a wild confusion that resembled excitement. What did I look like to those who weren't me? Another man pulled a two-wheeled cart by, fast. He was thin as a single bone. In his cart perched a woman whose white hair flew behind her. She held a fur blanket with an animal's head still attached. It had teeth. I was surprised to see a blanket in such heat. Only when the man veered around them did I notice the group of men in payos , side-curls. Jewish men, walking toward the dock, moving and speaking as if none of the chaos around them were happening, as if it weren't a thousand degrees and impossible to breathe. As if we hadn't landed on another planet. I watched them, amazed by their calm, by the possibility that they--and we--could belong here. An open-backed truck arrived and we climbed on, Papa lifting Naomi and me, saying it was from a Jewish service, had come to collect us. We were packed tight enough to be held up by each other's bodies. I smelled my own fear, all our sweat, a hundred broken fevers. I wished desperately for a shower. We'd washed in a small cubicle on the ship. I was hoping so much for an actual bath here. We were all, even chatty Alexi, too shocked to speak. Except Naomi, who shouted, "Ah, ah, ah," from Papa's arms. Her eyes had begun to look green--they'd been gold before, the color of coins or a lion's mane. I was glad for this change and relieved she had no words. Even if we'd known what to say about this place, what language would we have used? The dock was behind us, baking in the sun, crowded with men, some bearded with turbans, others in white shirts and khaki shorts, still more in military uniforms. I hoped to see the religious men again, but they were gone. I knew, in a strange and certain way, just how alike we suddenly were, those men and I. Even though all that connected us was being here, being Jewish. In that instant of looking out at the city, I saw everyone else and also saw myself among them, another stranger. Excerpted from Someday We Will Fly by Rachel Dewoskin All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.</anon>
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Horn Book Review
In 1940, Lillias Jewish family plans to escape the Nazi threat in Warsaw for Shanghai. Her parents are acrobats, and when their circus is raided, Lillia and her father and sister are separated from the girls mother and must make the journey without knowing her fate. Once there, the family lives among other refugees in Japanese-occupied Shanghai, and Lillia attends an international Jewish school. She begins to interact with local people via her friendship with Wei, a boy who works at the school, and later his sister Aili. Lillia (fifteen when the story begins) starts out somewhat naive, and DeWoskin sensitively shows her maturing as she comes to realize the privilege she has over Shanghai-born Wei and Aili, even as a refugee, and the repercussions her actions can have for them. Her growth also involves accepting the role of sole breadwinner when her father and sister fall ill; left without many options, she takes a job dancing and socializing at a club for wealthy Japanese men. Though a climactic revelation seems perhaps too good to be true, the novel is honest about the impossibility of a completely happy ending. Prose thick with description details 1940s Shanghai through the eyes of a first-person narrator trying to make sense of a setting completely new to her. A personal and informative authors note and an extensive list of sources make it evident that this novel highlighting a WWII story rarely told in YA is a well-researched one. shoshana flax March/April 2019 p 79(c) Copyright 2019. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.