Monday, November 17, 2014

Historical Realistic Fiction WWII: The End of the Line by Sharon E. McKay

The End of the Line begins in Amsterdam during the Fall of 1942, a little girl and her young mother are about to get on a tram.  They have been told to search for a woman with a green hat who will take the young girl to safety.  At the same time, brothers Hans and Lars are getting ready to start their day working on the tram.  Hans is the driver and Lars collects the tickets, they never expect to cross paths.  The young girls name is Beatrix, her mother is discovered to be Jewish and is taken off the tram by Nazi soldiers.    Lars tells the soldiers that the girl is his niece.  The two elderly brothers have made Beatrix their responsibility to keep safe and hidden. The brothers aren't prepared to take care of a five year old, they never married and have no experience with children.  Desperate they turn the only place that they can, to their neighbor and deceased mothers best friend, Mrs. Vos.  Taking Beatrix into their homes places them all in great danger, for if they are discovered they all risk being sent to a prison camp like Beatrix's mother.    


The End of the Line is reported to be based on real events.  It illustrates how parents during World War II were concerned for the safety of their children. Like the young mother in the story, they often sent their children to live with family, out of the country, or in this case left them in the arms of strangers. McKay shows the impact of the Nazi occupation in Holland, how people lived in fear of being accused of being Jewish, taken away to a prison camp and the loss of their basic freedom.  As the war progressed across the seasons and years, McKay delves into the economic hardships by showing how Lars and Hans try to find food, keep their home warm all while ensuring that Beatrix is safe.  Their are many dangers they face, including a young Nazi solider on the tram who Beatrix accidentally speaks Yiddish to, concerns that one of their neighbors might turn them in, and fear when a neighbor who was helping them is taken from her home.  Throughout, The End of the Line is a story about kindness, the resilience of people and a hopeful story to add to a study on World War II and the Holocaust.  I enjoyed the alternating chapters between Beatrix and her mother and then Hans and Lars.  My favorite was those that included Mrs. Vos, she possessed such inner strength and was the most courageous.  I also enjoyed that following Holland's liberation in 1945, all of the main characters futures were explained, leaving no questions unresolved.  Included at the beginning of the story is a description of "When Strangers Were Saviors," and an Afterword that provides the historical details of the war.  

I received a review copy from the publisher for free via NetGalley for consideration for the 2014 Cybils award in Middle Grade Fiction.  

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