Journey to America by Sonia Levitin, 1970.
This is the first book in the Journey to America Saga. Like her heroine, Lisa, Sonia Levitin also fled Germany with her family during World War II, and her stories are semi-autobiographical.
Twelve-year-old Lisa Platt lives with her family in Berlin in 1938. But, with the rise of the Nazis, events have taken a frightening turn for Jewish families like theirs. There has already been violence toward Jewish people, and travel is restricted. Lisa’s father fears for their family, and their mother believes that war is about to break out. Reluctantly, her parents have decided that the only thing to do is to try to start over somewhere else.
Because of the travel restrictions, Lisa’s father has to leave secretly, pretending that he is only going on vacation. In reality, he and Lisa’s uncle will go to America and try to get established before sending for the rest of the family. But, it isn’t safe for Lisa, her mother, and her two sisters to stay in Germany, waiting for word from them. Instead, they pretend that they are joining Lisa’s father for a holiday in Switzerland. They can only take a little luggage with them, as if they were really just going on vacation, and very little money.
But, getting on the train out of Germany is only the first step of their long journey. Lisa and her mother and sisters live as refugees in Switzerland, waiting for her father to help arrange for their passage to America. Often, they have too little to eat because they don’t have much money. There are some people who help them, and they make some new friends, but the long wait is difficult. Meanwhile, they must face the frightening events taking shape around them, around the people they left behind, and their own uncertain future.
Although there are sad parts of the book, there are lighter moments, too, and the characters are realistic and engaging. There is only one illustration in the book, a drawing of Lisa and her sisters getting their pictures taken for their passports.