The Star and the Shamrock


The novel “The Star and the Shamrock” by Jean Grainger discusses the Kindertransport in the form of a fictional story. Ariella’s husband, Peter Bannon went missing after standing up for an old Jewish woman in the streets of Berlin. She soon realized she needed to move her children to safety out of the country. She decides to write to a distant cousin of Peter, Elizabeth Klein. As soon as Elizabeth accepts to taking in the children, Liesl and Erich board the train to England and away from their mother.

The Kindertransport was a system to help children under the age of 17 out of German-annexed territories from 1938 to 1940. Each child had to payed for by a private citizen, family member, or larger organization from England before being allowed on a train. Most of the children that were selected were homeless, orphans or their parents were in concentration camps. Though some children were lucky to go to family, others were sent to farms, orphanages, or hostels and expected to act as servants and were abused.

Liesl and Erich were taught English, German, Italian, and French by their mother and were able to adjust quickly to their new life with Elizabeth. Soon after their apartment in Liverpool was bombed out, they are desperate to find a home. Elizabeth finally decides to bring the two children to her childhood home in Bellycraggen, Ireland. After recovering from the trauma of the bombing, the children quickly become friends with a group of other Kindertransport children that live at a farm and with local children.

By adding bits and pieces from an elaborate backstory, the author is able to introduce each character and develop them over the course of the storyline. Each and every character has a place in the story and their intentions are clearly stated through actions. Though some vocabulary may be harder to understand without proper context, the novel is an intermediate level read yet on the longer side. Some of the events throughout the plot are vividly described and traumatic for the characters as well as the reader. The novel opens the door to the past in the lives of children sent on the Kindertransport, some never seeing their parents again. It also touches on the topic of espionage and anti-Semitism against refugee children and adults alike. The book is appropriate for and audience at or above middle school.

Note: The sequel to this book was set to be published in January 2020 thought the large print edition was published in December.