Seeking Refuge

Seeking Refuge
CDN$ 18.95
Series: Graphic Novel
Illustrator: Kathryn E. Shoemaker
Length: 128
Publication Year: July 1, 2016
ISBN: 9781926890029
Age Group: 8-12
Book Cover: Paperback


Eleven-year-old Marianne is fortunate. She one of the first two hundred Jewish children on the heroic rescue operation known as the Kindertransport, which arrived in London, England in December, 1938.

Life in the new country seems strange, her few words of English and her attempts to become an ordinary English girl are not enough to please her foster mother, who wanted a girl as a domestic servant. Marianne deeply misses her family, whom she had to leave behind.

With the outbreak of World War II in 1939  Marianne finds herself being evacuated to Wales. She is shuffled from one unsuitable home to another– (em dash)but there is a surprise in store and Marianne’s courage and resilience is finally rewarded.

The Kindertransport ultimately  saved of almost 10,000 children from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia in the nine months preceding World War II was a unique and triumphant human effort. Marianne’s story is based on the kind of events that were actually experienced by the children. Author Irene N. Watts was one of them, arriving on the second Kindertransport in December 1938 at the age of seven.

Irene N. Watts was born in Berlin, raised in the UK and emigrated to Canada. She is the author of numerous books and plays for children and young people, among them Goodbye Marianne and No Pets Allowed. She lives in Vancouver.

Kathryn E. Shoemaker is the illustrator of many books for children, among them A Telling Time and My Animal Friends. She teaches children’s literature at the University of British Columbia.



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An 11-year-old Jewish girl travels alone from Berlin to Great Britain in the Kindertransport of 1938.


Shoemaker’s quiet, silvery-penciled panels soften this Holocaust narrative, a companion to Good-bye Marianne (2008). Eleven-year-old Marianne Kohn arrives in Great Britain with the Kindertransport, a rescue that shipped Jewish children out of Germany before the outbreak of WWII. Memories and nightmares of escalating hate under the Third Reich persist as she makes her way in a country that isn’t entirely happy to have her. Her first foster mother, counting on free domestic help, cares only for appearances: “You have shamed me in front of everyone,” she tells Marianne after the girl buys a pair of used shoes. Evacuated to rural Wales after the war begins (Shoemaker’s maps help readers track the shifting locales), Marianne encounters outright bigotry (“Christ killer!” “Dirty spy!”), then stays with a couple whose own daughter has died, and who attempt, creepily, to remake Marianne into her image. Yet throughout, Marianne finds allies who guard, help, and advocate for her, and she is herself resourceful and brave. Miraculously, Marianne and her mother are reunited in the end. Though Holocaust stories are by definition horrifying, this one offers some hope. Ages 8–11. (Mar.)

Publishers Weekly Review – 2017


A graphic novel, Seeking Refuge by Irene N. Watts and illustrated by Kathryn Shoemaker (Tradewind/ Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 128 pages, $19, paperback) does an admirable job of telling the story of one child who is separated from her family and sent from Germany to Britain during the early years of the Second World War.

A followup to Goodbye MarianneSeeking Refuge shows how differing customs, lack of sympathy and hostile feelings impact this young girl who has never before been separated from her family. She is shuttled between different households where she is ignored, abused, or simply taken advantage of before she is finally reunited with her mother.

The similarity between her situation and that of hundreds of unaccompanied child refugees today is clear.

Shoemaker’s illustrations are done in black and white pencil, and their very sparsity adds a sombre feeling to the narrative. Readers eight to 12 years of age who appreciate graphic novels will find this an interesting read.

Winnipeg Free Press, March 18, 2017

“… a powerful story [told] through words and pictures.”

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