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Lily's Crossing (1998 Honor) (original 1997; edition 1997)
by Patricia Reilly Giff
Lily's Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff (1997)
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Patricia Reilly Giff is one of my favorite middle grade authors. She is able to bring the past alive with engaging characters and fascinating stories. I find her very engaging and I thoroughly enjoy all her books.
Lily's Crossing is a real "tear-jerker". so get out your hankies. Patricia R. Giff, the author, is all about family, and so is this historical novel for young people. It is a great read for 4th graders and up, but adults like it, too.
Lily, the main character, is about to have a bummer of a summer vacation. Her father (her mom is dead), Poppy, is off to Europe as an Army Engineer from the U.S., and Lily is left alone on her vacation, except for a young boy, Albert, who she doesn't like. This changes when Lily finds out about the deaths of Albert's parents, and together they care for a kitten and share their problems. The third-person narrative style was a success.
Lily goes with her father and grandmother to their annual summer home at the coast, but World War II is raging and Lily quickly sees that this summer will not be like those in the past. Her father, an engineer, heads to Europe to help with the recovery after the Allies reconquer France. Her one friend at the summer home leaves early on. She is left looking forward to a boring summer with her irritating grandmother and no friends.
But then Albert shows up. Reluctant at first to befriend this odd boy, who is a refugee from Hungary, they soon become good friends. The only problem is Lily's habit of lying to have something interesting to say. She tells Albert that they can row a boat out to a troop ship, climb aboard, and get to Europe to find her father and his sister.
A nice story of a friendship that develops during difficult times under strained circumstances.
Hazel Rochman (Booklist, February 1, 1997 (Vol. 93, No. 11))
With wry comedy and intense feeling, and without intrusive historical detail, Giff gets across a strong sense of what it was like on the home front during World War II. Lily makes up stories about her involvement with spies, submarines, and anti-Nazi plots in her small seaside town in 1944, but underlying her melodrama and lies is grief for her dead mother. When Lily's father has to leave to fight in France, she is so hurt and furious that she refuses even to say good-bye to him. As she gets to know Albert, an orphaned Hungarian refugee, she learns about his secret anguish: he is guilt-stricken about the younger sister he left behind (he, also, didn't say good-bye), and he is determined, somehow, to cross the ocean and find her. The happy ending, when Lily's father finds Albert's sister in France, is too contrived, but the reunion scenes at home are heartbreaking. The friendship story is beautifully drawn: both Lily and Albert are wary, reluctant, and needy; they quarrel as much as they bond, and in the end, they help each other to be brave. Category: Middle Readers. 1997, Delacorte, $14.95. Gr. 5-8.
CCBC (Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices, 1997)
Although Lily generally looks forward to spending the summer at her family's vacation home in Rockaway, the summer of 1944 is different. For one thing, her best friend Margaret has moved away for the summer and, for another, her father has gone to fight in the War. Left with just her stern grandmother for company, lonely Lily tries to make friends with the only person close to her own age: Albert, a Hungarian refugee spending the summer in Rockaway. Lily initiates the friendship with a lie by telling Albert she is planning to swim to a ship that will take her to Europe so that she can find her father. She promises Albert that he can join her. As their friendship grows throughout the summer, so, too, does the lie and Lily simply doesn't know how to stop it before it leads to tragedy. Details of time and place are skillfully interwoven into a story that features well-rounded, believable characters. Throughout, Giff provides plenty of dramatic tension by contrasting Lily's private thoughts with her public actions, until she is ultimately able to merge the two in Lily's powerful crossing into adolescence. CCBC categories: Fiction for Children; Historical People, Places and Events. 1997, Delacorte, 180 pages, $14.95. Ages 9-14.
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During a summer spent at Rockaway Beach in 1944, Lily's friendship with a young Hungarian refugee causes her to see the war and her own world differently.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.54 — Literature English (North America) American fiction 20th Century 1945-1999
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Unfortunately, when Lily arrives in Rockaway she promptly learns that her longtime summer friend, Margaret Dillon, is moving away to Michigan, at least for the time being. Her dad has taken a job on a bomber-plane assembly line there. Before leaving, Margaret gives Lily, a budding writer, the key to the Dillon summer place, so she can escape her sometimes bossy grandmother and work on her stories in its wonderful attic room. A worse announcement comes soon after: Poppy is leaving for Europe, not as a soldier, but because his engineering skills are needed. He promises he will write to his daughter and somehow let her know where he is. Lily’s grief is intense, and she angrily refuses to see him off, an act that will haunt her through a very eventful summer.
Most of the action of the novel is concerned with Lily’s growing friendship with a war refugee from Budapest, the nephew of the Mollahan’s neighbours, Mr. and Mrs. Orban. Albert has been through a traumatic time. Two years earlier, his grandmother took charge of him and his little sister, Ruth, just before their parents were arrested for publishing a newspaper that was critical of Hitler, an act which cost them their lives. The children’s grandmother arranged to have them smuggled west across Europe to France and, hopefully, to America. Unfortunately, by the time the siblings reached France, Ruth was seriously ill with measles. She had to be left behind with an order of nuns. Now Albert is deeply distressed by the fact that he did not say goodbye to Ruth.
The climax of the novel hinges on a lie that Lily tells Albert, which makes him believe he might be able to get himself aboard a troopship to Europe so that he can find Ruth. All of this may sound a little heavy going for young readers, but Giff has a delicate touch; lighter incidents, including the discovery of a marmalade kitten, counterbalance the serious ones.
The many warm and emotionally satisfying moments in the novel also compensate for a few events that might raise the eyebrows of adult readers. Giff’s child characters have a remarkable amount of freedom compared to most of today's kids. When I consider my own and my friends’ childhood experiences, I marvel at, and am grateful for, the benign neglect of our parents, which gave us the freedom to roam. Giff’s main characters have freedom to roam and then some. They glide off in rowboats, sometimes in the middle of the night, and they go swimming in rough water without any adult supervision—things even the relaxed parents I knew would never have permitted, even though their kids were capable swimmers. Some of today’s helicopter parents might be alarmed by the ideas this novel might give to young readers!
These quibbles aside, Giff’s book is generally a rewarding piece of historical fiction about the power of friendship and family love. Recommended.
Rating: 3.5 rounded down ( )