A Faraway Island



Moving story of Jewish sisters living as refugees in Sweden.

What parents need to know

Educational value

This story includes some information about World War II and may prompt readers to look for more.

Positive messages

This story can be used to help kids begin learning about World War II, Nazis, and child refugees. Kids will find Stephie to be a relatable character and understand her worry for her parents and admire her bravery. 

Positive role models

Stephanie and her sister are both believable characters who fight sometimes; they also worry about their parents. Readers will find it easy to root for them and admire Stephie's inner courage.  


The war is kept at a distance, but Stephanie has memories of her dog being shot by Nazis and of a couple being beaten. Also a fistfight, a boy kicks a dog, and a girl is bullied.

Not applicable

A boy calls a girl a "filthy Jew-kid."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this story can help kids start learning about World War II, Nazis, and child refugees. Stephie is a relatable character who fights with her sister, worries about  her parents (whom she is separated from), and discovers her inner courage. While the war is kept at a distance, there are moments when Stephanie remembers her life before she left Germany, including the beating of a couple and the killing of a dog. 

What's the story?

In 1939, Viennese Jewish sisters Stephanie and Nellie are sent by their parents as refugees to Sweden. They're placed with different families on a small, windswept island, where they hope that their parents will join them later. Nellie learns Swedish quickly, makes friends, and lives with a kind family. But older sister Stephanie picks up Swedish more slowly, lives with a cold old woman, and is bullied at school. She longs for the day that she's reunited with her parents, but that's looking more and more unlikely. Includes Author's Note.

Is it any good?


This seamless translation from Swedish, based on an event little-known in that country, will help kids begin to learn about tough topics like World War II, Nazis, and child refugees. It takes place outside of the more extreme crimes of the war, but kids will still be moved by this realistic tale of children torn apart from their parents and learning to live in a foreign place.

See our discussion guide for ideas for delving into the themes here and our list of other recommended books for kids who are ready to delve more deeply into the stories of Jewish children in WWII.  

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about WWII and its impact on kids and families. What did kids know about the war before reading this book? How can they find out more?

  • The author wrote this book based, in part, on interviews with 500 Jews who, like Stephie, spent WWII in Sweden as child refugees. Do you feel differently about the book knowing that real kids went through what Stephie did? 


Book details

Author:Annika Thor
Genre:Historical Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication date:November 1, 2009
Number of pages:247
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12
Read aloud:9
Read alone:9

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Teen, 13 years old Written byj♥j♥f♥ July 28, 2011

"Interesting and Educational"

When I first started reading this book, I thought it was boring. However, I made myself keep reading and it turned out to be a really interesting and educational book. I would recommend it, especially if you are trying to learn more about World War II. I intend to continue reading the series!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much swearing
Teen, 14 years old Written bymlv55429 January 13, 2011

a faraway ialand

This is a very good book! I would like to reread it more times!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 12 years old November 11, 2013

Good...but long

I just finished reading this book, and I would definitely suggest it to anyone who is interested in learning more about WWII, or just needs a good book to read. There wasn't much about violence or anything like that, but because it's so long, and contains a lot of description, I would advise it for middle readers.
What other families should know
Educational value


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