When I was a child, Thalhimer’s meant shopping—Christmas shopping in Richmond. It was one of the last grand old department stores before shopping malls took over, and it got itself gussied up for the holidays. We might come home with bars of marzipan or hermit crabs but always with stars in our eyes. It was a place of sweet and inventive dreams. Little did we know that the store’s founder had played an important part in making dreams of safety come true for many Jewish teenagers in World War II.
Robert H. Gillette’s previous book, The Virginia Plan: William B. Thalhimer and a Rescue from Nazi Germany, gave an overview of how Mr. Thalhimer managed it. In Gillette’s current work, Escape to Virginia: From Nazi Germany to Thalhimer’s Farm, readers learn the in-depth stories of two of the rescued teenagers.
When you’re thirteen, it seems as though everything will be the same always, especially if you live in a traditional culture. For John Bul Dau, life with his large family and many friends as cattle keepers in the Dinka tribe was wonderful. The elders were wise and taught them what they needed to know to become strong men and women. There was time for work and time for play. All of that changed the night the Northern soldiers destroyed their village, as told in John Bul Dau and Martha Arual Akech’s Lost Boy, Lost Girl: Escaping the Civil War in Sudan.
Deo and his brother Innocent live in a village in Zimbabwe. One day when they are outside in their village playing soccer, trucks with soldiers aboard arrive armed with guns. In the book Now is the Time for Running by Michael Williams, an ordinary day that started with soccer games with friends ends with tragedy and carnage. Deo and Innocent are the only surviving members of their village. Everyone else has been murdered by the soldiers. The brothers must secretly leave the village and try to find safety elsewhere. The brothers manage to escape only after Innocent convinces Deo to go back and retrieve his "Bix box" that contains all his prized possessions. Deo has his soccer ball which is stuffed with money.
Deo and Innocent must make their way to South Africa where they can work, go back to school, and find their father. The only clue they have to his whereabouts is a crumpled picture of him standing in front of a truck with a phone number on it.
Picture book writer and illustrator Uri Shulevitz came into a world on the brink of a devastating war. The son of son of Abraham and Szandla (Hermanstat) Shulevitz, Uri (pronounced oo-ree), he was only four years old when German bombs falling on Warsaw drove his Jewish family out of the city and into an eight-year period of travel in exile throughout Europe before finally settling in Paris in 1947, when Uri was twelve years old.
In 2008, Nya, a young woman who lives in Sudan, walks two hours one way to get water for her family. She does this twice a day. She does not have shoes. In her book A Long Walk to Water, Newbery medalist Linda Sue Park, introduces us to Nya. She also introduces us to Salva, a young man living in Sudan in 1985.
Their stories are told in alternating tales. Salva is a young student in Sudan in 1985. His country has been going through a civil war for decades. One day while Salva is at school, a group of rebels attack his village. The teacher tells all the students to run away to escape the attack by the rebels. Salva does as instructed but soon finds himself alone and far from his home. He certainly does not feel safe. He is lost and disoriented. He meets up with a group of refugees who are leaving Sudan and heading to Kenya. Salva joins the group though they are reluctant to accept him because he is a child and may become a burden. Salva walks with them, hoping to find safety in Kenya and hoping to be reunited with his family.