A Faraway Island

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
A Faraway Island Book Poster Image
Moving story of Jewish sisters living as refugees in Sweden.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

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 & Representations

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.


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

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What 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. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 3 and 10-year-old Written bySunilTripathy April 15, 2011
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.... Continue reading
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 education... Continue reading

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.  

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history

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