Review: Call Across the Sea

Call Across the Sea

by Kathy Kacer

Annick Press

Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Sandy Wasserman

I was blown away by this book; I can’t say it any other way. While there’s the need for and interest in Holocaust books for children, so many teachers and parents are not comfortable with the negativity in so many of them, because of the fear of frightening children with graphic images of starvation and worse. This book, on the other hand, is totally positive in numerous ways! Uplifting! We meet the protagonist, a teen, a positive force! On the first page, we feel her love for Denmark, her understanding of her entire community including the Jewish people in it, her neighbors. We see her strength and character and desire to be part of a youth resistance movement when Hitler comes to power and the Nazis, the Gestapo, show up in growing numbers in Denmark. The reader is introduced into Henny’s school life, her entry into the Danish resistance, even the people whom she realizes she can and cannot trust. We learn how she creatively imagines a plan using her navigating and boating skills to save Jewish families and ferry them across the Oresund a waterway she knows like the back of her hand; Sweden is only about three hours by boat from Denmark, but the waters are crawling with sneaky German ships bearing swastikas. Henny is also a mentor for her young Jewish next door neighbor, a girl a few years younger than she is, and part of the very first Jewish family she rescues. Suspense builds and as more Nazis are everywhere and dangerous for all of Denmark, Henny and her resistance friends and her parents exhibit the feeling that if the Danish people stick together and respect each other they can make a difference. Henny remains sure that she can do this heroic act and is committed to doing everything in her power to be an upstander. In an Afterward, the author informs the middle grade readers in a few additional pages that the story is based on a real character in Danish history, the historical Henny Sinding. 
This book is solidly rooted in the criteria for Sydney Taylor consideration, with its connection to Holocaust studies.
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Reviewer Sandy Wasserman is a retired teacher of Gifted and Talented students, and taught for 35 years in both public schools and at a Solomon Schechter Day School. She's a wife, mother of two adult daughters, and grandmother to two fantastic 'first readers' of her manuscripts. Her published book, The Sun's Special Blessing [2009], was her first serendipitous and fun experience in the publishing world. She loves to read and swim, though not at the same time.