The Children of Willesden Lane
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Children of Willesden Lane is internationally acclaimed pianist Mona Golabek's biography of her Viennese mother, Lisa Jura Golabek. At 14, Lisa was one of more than 9,500 mostly Jewish children sent to the United Kingdom on the Kindertransport to escape Nazi persecution. There, with the help of others, Lisa was able to continue her training and pursue her ambition to become a concert pianist. Violence is always in the background and triggers the story with the brutal arrest of Lisa's father, increasing restrictions imposed on Jews in Vienna, and the Night of Broken Glass. And there's the continuous bombing of London. The only swearing is in German, and there's no sex other than kissing. (The play The Pianist of Willesden Lane is adapted from this book.)
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What's the Story?
Based on the true story of author Mona Golabek's mother, Lisa Jura Golabek, THE CHILDREN OF WILLESDEN LANE begins when Lisa, a 14-year-old piano prodigy in Vienna, is sadly told by her piano instructor that he's no longer allowed to teach Jewish children. The restrictions in the city rapidly mount, and when her parents are able to secure a place on the Kindertransport to London, they send Lisa to what they hope will be safety. After a few false starts, she winds up at a hostel on Willesden Lane, which miraculously has a piano. The matron reads about an upcoming audition at the Royal Academy of Music. After Lisa's daily work at a factory, she practices long hours, despite war shortages and illness. Her new friends help her prepare, but what really motivates her is the promise she made to her mother to "hold on" to her music. Lisa's relentless in her pursuit of perfection at the keyboard and efforts to rescue her younger sister, who arrives on the very last Kindertransport. When Lisa finds out that she passed the audition, the whole hostel applauds. Then she begins the hard work of training with a master teacher to achieve her goal of becoming a concert pianist.
Is It Any Good?
This remarkable, beautifully written story is inspirational. It will provoke tears for the difficulties and deaths Lisa must face and cheers for her endurance, persistence, and passion for the music that sustains her. Readers will grow to care about Lisa and respect her devotion to her family and her music, and recognize the significance of the arts in people's lives.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the impact of war on children. Why are true stories of young people's acts of courage inspirational and important for us to hear?
Do you prefer real-life accounts of bravery or fictional ones? What books based on true stories have you especially liked?
What would it be like to be sent away from family and all that you know and love to travel to a totally different environment with no idea of what's ahead?
- Authors: Mona Golabek, Lee Cohen
- Genre: History
- Topics: Arts and Dance, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, History, Trains
- Book type: Non-Fiction
- Publisher: Time Warner Books
- Publication date: November 1, 2003
- Number of pages: 272
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: October 11, 2015
Our Editors Recommend
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Number the Stars
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The Diary of Anne Frank (2009)
BBC's 5-part series shows a feisty, moody, realistic Anne.
For kids who love history
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