I came across this middle-grade World War II adventure story by Vanessa Harbour when I attended an online workshop by the Golden Egg Academy.
Published by Firefly Press this book has been out in the UK for a couple of years, but the recommendation sent me looking for it and I’m so glad I did! It’s also out in the US this March 2021 and I highly recommend it.
If Jakob sneezed, he could die.
1945 Austria. A Nazi officer is tipped off that a Spanish Riding School groom is sheltering a Jewish boy at their stables. Jakob hides successfully but has to watch the officer shoot one of his beloved Lipizzaner horses just for spite.Jakob and his guardian know they must get the other horses away, but is it possible to get them all over the mountains to safety?
A fleeing Roma girl, Kizzy, joins them, but they face one gruelling trial after another as they try to cross the Austrian mountains, through Nazi territory. Can they do it, and what will be waiting on the other side?
Flight is such a wonderful story full of warmth and hope and love. From the first perilous moments of the book, I was rooting for Jakob and the horses in his care. Herr Engel, his firm but magnanimous guardian, was also a joy on the pages and these characters, joined by Kizzy an orphaned Roma girl, and their stories kept me reading into the night.
Their journey across enemy territory is dark at times, not hiding from the atrocities of the war or the individual tragedies of those persecuted. But the story also sings of love and loyalty. It’s not a big, action-filled adventure, but one that really holds truth about the lengths people will go to for love.
The relationship with the horses was enlightening for me, and I’m sure would be to others who have never known such love. I imagine this story would also really appeal to those who know and love horses well.
The writing is superb, flowing beautifully and carrying me faultlessly through this wonderful tale.
It’s one to read carefully with MG readers – there’s some dark but important truths within it – but would make a good class text to support perspectives of WWII learning or as a great piece of literature more generally. It’s also a book for young and old to enjoy at their leisure too.
I really believe this book – its characters and its hope – will stay with me for some time.
To find out more about the author visit here.
For those interested in writing for children, I also recommend you check out the Golden Egg Academy here. I understand the Golden Egg played a big part in this story being born and could help you realise your children’s book too.(I am in no way affiliated with them although I covet their programme – one day! 🙂 )