Review of Stars of the Night: The Courageous Children of the Czech Kindertransport

Stars of the Night: The Courageous Children of the Czech Kindertransport
by Caren Stelson; illus. by Selina Alko
Primary, Intermediate    Carolrhoda    40 pp.
2/23    9781541598683    $19.99

In this quiet but immediate nonfiction picture book, Stelson (A Bowl Full of Peace, rev. 7/20) tells the story of the 669 children evacuated from ­Czechoslovakia via the Kindertransport in the late 1930s, to escape the Nazis, with the help of Nicholas Winton. The first-person-plural narration mainly sticks to the collective point of view of the children, letting readers experience their bewilderment first at the early signs of war and persecution and then at the unexplained “holiday to England” without their parents; occasional “none of us knew” asides hint at the help Winton was providing behind the scenes. As time passes and the war ends, the narrators find out (along with readers) that most of their parents have perished during the Holocaust, and they later learn Winton’s identity. The in-the-moment text combines with emotional acrylic, colored-pencil, and collage illustrations in Alko’s (I Is for Immigrants, rev. 9/21) signature style to create a dreamlike atmosphere. Extensive back matter provides further context; a note explains that five of the children in the illustrations represent specific individuals among “Winton’s children,” and a quote from the mother of one of them, Vera Gissing, inspired the titular star motif. Pair with Sís’s Nicky & Vera: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued (rev. 5/21).

From the January/February 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, associate editor of The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in writing for children from Simmons University. She has served on the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award and Sydney Taylor Book Award committees, and is serving on the 2025 Walter Dean Myers Award committee.

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