Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Lily's Crossing

Lily's Crossing

Patricia Reilly Giff
Historical Fiction
For ages 12 and up
Random House, 1997   ISBN: 0440414539

Lily is delighted that the time has come to go to Rockaway for the summer. At last there will be the days on the beach, swimming, fishing, spending time with her friend Margaret, and not having to practice the piano. Things rapidly begin to unravel however. It begins with her father's arrangements to have the piano moved to the house at Rockaway so that Lily can practice on it every day. Then Lily finds out that Margaret is not going to be in Rockaway. She and her family are going north so that Margaret's father can work in a war plane factory. Then, much worse still, Margaret learns that her beloved father, Poppy, is going to work as an engineer for the army in Europe. As he explains to her, people like him are needed to help put Europe back together in the wake of all the destruction. It would seem that the war is doing its best to make Lily's life as miserable as possible.

Things improve a little when Lily meets and eventually makes friends with a boy from Hungary, a refugee who is staying with relatives for the summer. Lily discovers that it is possible to be worse off than she is for Albert not only has no parents but his little sister Ruth is still trapped in France somewhere. More than anything Albert wants to get Ruth to safety and more than anything Lily wants to be with Poppy.

Though Lily has many good qualities and talents she is a dreadful liar and when she tells Albert a lie to impress him and to make him feel better, she finds out that telling lies can be dangerous. The time has come for her to find a real way to help those she cares about,  and she sets about doing this as best she can.

There can be no doubt that Patricia Reilly Giff has the power to create historical fiction which is profoundly moving and thought provoking. Her superlative prose takes the reader to the drifting sand, the warm boardwalk, and the heavy surf of the Atlantic coast during the war years. It takes us back to a time when searchlights flickered across the skies and when letters from soldiers and loved ones were treasures to be pored over again and again. It also takes us back to a time when families and friends bonded together to help one another through hard times, when they prayed for one another and when they, like Lily, learned that war touches everyone in some way.