It’s been a slow reading week as, like many people in England, I’ve been rushing around trying to get lots of stuff done before Lockdown 2 came into force. I hope you are all keeping well.
I read this story by Tom Palmer a few weeks ago, and it’s one of those books that I couldn’t write about straight away because of the emotions it stirred up. However, Remembrance Sunday seemed the right time to put my thoughts on (electronic) paper.
Inspired by the true story of the Windermere Boys, After the War is a poignant and ultimately hopeful story of a group of Jewish children taken from concentration camps at the end of WW2 and brought to the UK to recuperate in the Lake District. It’s been meticulously researched and cleverly written, balancing the stark reality of one of the boy’s experiences of the Holocaust against the kindness and friendship shown to the children by the staff of the Calgarth Estate and the local community. The children, obviously scarred and shaped by what they’ve been through – most not knowing if any of their families are still alive – try to come to terms with, and adapt to, a new way of life with all the fear, confusion and life-changing decisions that brings. There are some heartbreaking (age-appropriate) parts to this book, but there absolutely needs to be to ensure that readers understand the impact of the atrocities faced by the Jewish people. That said, there are threads of hope woven throughout to lighten the book and draw it to an uplifting close. I was struck particularly by the strength the children drew from their friendships, and how that strength carried them forwards.
I’m not going to lie, I definitely had tissues at hand, but I’m truly glad that I read this – it’s one of those stories that will stay with you for a long time. There’s a perfect quote in the foreword from Trevor Avery of the Lake District Holocaust Project: “It is a story from the past, told in the present, with lessons for us all for the future”.
If you are a teacher or librarian, this is a perfect book to accompany any WW2 module for children aged 10+. Plus, if you check out Tom Palmer’s website (tompalmer.co.uk), you’ll find a whole host of useful, free resources.
After the War: From Auschwitz to Ambleside
Author: Tom Palmer
Cover Art: Tom Clohosy Cole
Publisher: Barrington Stoke