From international bestseller Mario Escobar comes a story of escape, sacrifice, and hope amid the perils of the second World War.
August 1942. Jacob and Moses Stein, two young Jewish brothers, are staying with their aunt in Paris amid the Nazi occupation. The boys’ parents, well-known German playwrights, have left the brothers in their aunt’s care until they can find safe harbor for their family. But before the Steins can reunite, a great and terrifying roundup occurs. The French gendarmes, under Nazi order, arrest the boys and take them to the Vélodrome d’Hiver—a massive, bleak structure in Paris where thousands of France’s Jews are being forcibly detained.
Jacob and Moses know they must flee in order to survive, but they only have a set of letters sent from the south of France to guide them to their parents. Danger lurks around every corner as the boys, with nothing but each other, trek across the occupied country. Along their remarkable journey, they meet strangers and brave souls who put themselves at risk to protect the children—some of whom pay the ultimate price for helping these young refugees of war.
This inspiring novel, now available for the first time in English, demonstrates the power of family and the endurance of the human spirit—even through the darkest moments of human history.
When I saw Children of the Stars last year would be published soon, I was excited to read it. I had previously read a couple World War II books and enjoyed the genre. If you like World War II novels, you are likely going to love this one! I am impressed with the beauty of the writing, vivid imagery, and raw emotions that captured my attention and these beautiful elements exist in a translation.
This book begins with Jacob and Mose’s parents leaving on a train to find a safe place for all of them to live. The boys remain with their aunt in Paris because it is safer there for the children in the meanwhile.
I enjoyed reading about the harrowing journey Jacob and Moses went on after the French police rounded up all the Jews in Paris. Ordinary citizens of France hated the cruel treatment of the Jews by the weak French government and the Nazis but many were afraid to stand up for the Jews. Yet there were some who defied the government to help as many as possible.
I think that is what I really liked the most about Children of the Stars. It renewed my hope in the goodness of humanity.
The people Jacob and Moses met were from varying circumstances and religious opinions. An aetheist helped them a bit. Several priests, nuns, wealthy and poor people helped too.
I loved that it didn’t matter to most of these people that the boys held different religious views than they did. They still saw them as human beings in need of comfort. I like to believe we can still work together in society that way—loving each other because of our shared humanity and giving aid when needed despite differences.
“Ah, you religious types are all hedonists,” said Laduc. “Eat, sleep, enjoy. Real pleasure is contemplating the big absolute truths: beauty, love, friendship—”
“I couldn’t agree more,” interrupted the priest, “but these boys need to sleep. The back room is empty. It’s nice and quiet and cool.”
Leduc nodded to the boys. “We’ll head out at dawn.”
Another WWII novel also extremely well written is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. While I enjoyed the beauty of his writing and his creativity, I was shocked by the occasional profanity in what is termed a children’s book. It has a somewhat dismal aura. I was pleasantly surprised to find no profanity in Children of the Stars and loved the vibe that whispers of hope even in horrifying circumstances.
I was thrilled to read about the historical elements at the back of the book. It helped give context to the story. I was especially impressed learning which of the courageous characters were historical figures. The documentary listed would be an excellent additional choice for learning more about the events.
The importance of being together as a family over issues of security and wealth were shown throughout this novel. The boys had several opportunities to receive a safe new home with people to take care of them. But they needed their parents. That is a fundamental need I believe.
Do get Children of the Stars. This is a classic!
I received a free advanced reader copy of this book. All opinions are completely my own.
About the Author
Mario Escobar Golderos has a degree in History, with an advanced studies diploma in Modern History. He has written numerous books and articles about the Inquisition, the Protestant Reformation, and religious sects. He is the executive director of an NGO and directs the magazine Nueva historia para el debate, in addition to being a contributing columnist in various publications. Passionate about history and its mysteries, Escobar has delved into the depths of church history, the different sectarian groups that have struggled therein, and the discovery and colonization of the Americas. He specializes in the lives of unorthodox Spaniards and Americans.