WARNING: Reading this book will make you stay up late and the characters will haunt you long after you finish reading it.
Readers of my blog are no strangers to Alan Gratz's books. You're a click away from seeing what I thought of Prisoner B-3087, The League of Seven, and Samurai Shortstop. And believe it or not, I still have Dragon Lantern on my TBR shelf. It's no use. I can't keep up with this t-shirt and jeans-always-in-a-hat favorite of SCBWI-Carolinas and now a NY Times Bestselling author!
Although they are worlds and cultures apart, their stories intermingle. Their stories include broken glass, threatening soldiers, harrowing escapes, unbelievable obstacles, bodies of water which swallow family members, music, close-knit family ties, and heroism on each character's part.
Here are a few bits and pieces to entice you to read this book:
After Mahmoud's apartment building is bombed and crumbles his father says, "We should have gone long ago. Ready or not, if we want to live, we have to leave Syria." (p. 55)
This scene takes place soon after Isabel's family escapes to Florida in a makeshift boat their neighbors built.
They [the fathers] kept arguing, but the engine and the slap of the boat against the saves drowned their words out for Isabel. She wasn't paying any attention anyway. All she could think about was the ninety miles they still had to go, and the water pouring in from the gunshot hole in the side of the boat. (p. 65)
Josef felt like someone had yanked his heart from his chest. In all the times he'd dreamed of this day, his father had always been there to recite a blessing with him. But maybe this is what becoming a man is, Josef thought. Maybe becoming a man means not relying on your father anymore. (p. 75)
On their cobbled-together boat Isabel thinks about her beloved music.
This journey was a song, Isabel realized, a son cubano, and each part of it was a verse. The first verse had been the riot: a blast of trumpets, the rat-a-tat-tat of a snare drum. Then the pre-chorus of trading her trumpet for gasoline--the piano that gave the son its rhythm--and then the chorus itself: leaving home. They were still leaving home, still hadn't gotten to where they were going. They would return to the chorus again and again before they were done. (p.155-6)
Floating on a dinghy in the Mediterranean Sea with his mother, Mahmoud is hoping to be rescued. In the dark he hears a boat, but can't see it.
But the sound of the motor stills stayed frustratingly, agonizingly, far away. If only whoever was on the boat could see him, Mahmoud thought. All his life he'd practiced being hidden. Unnoticed. Now, at last, when he most needed to be seen, he was truly invisible. (p.192)Josef contemplates joining nine other men who plan to storm the bridge of the St. Louis and demand that the ship be run aground in America instead of being returned to Germany. As much as he wishes he could return to childhood he thinks,
But he wasn't a kid anymore. He had responsibilities. Like keeping his sister and his mother safe. Papa had told him what the concentration camps were like. He couldn't let that happen to Ruthie and his mother. (p. 253)Alan expertly wraps up the three refugee's stories in an unexpected ending. This is a timely book that both adults and readers from ages 12 and up will enjoy; it is also be a tremendous curriculum resource.