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Challenging Stories Book Club



Challenging Stories Book Club is pleased to present:


To Hope and Back:

The Journey of the St. Louis


By award-winning author, Kathy Kacer

in conversation with educator, Cindy Kozierok

Access Resources from the Livestream

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The story of the St. Louis, an ocean liner carrying over 900 Jews fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe that was turned away at every port – including Canada’s.


An ocean-liner carrying Jewish passengers can find no safe harbor...

Lisa and Sol board the luxury ship St. Louis in Hamburg, Germany on May 13, 1939 with mixed feelings. Lisa and her family are in first class; Sol and his parents are below in tourist class. Both children are excited to be beginning this voyage to a better life and sad to be leaving their old lives behind.


They are Jewish, as are almost all of the 937 passengers on board, and although war has not been officially declared in Europe, the Nazis have been persecuting Jews for years. As they set sail for Cuba the atmosphere on the ship is optimistic, led by the German captain Gustave Schroeder, who is determined to see his passengers to safety. But as they learn that Hitler’s propaganda has turned the country against them, the mood changes to despair. They are turned away - first from Cuba, then the United States, and then Canada.

The story of Lisa and Sol is set against the tragic true history of the St. Louis. Denied entry from port after port, the captain was forced to return his Jewish passengers to Europe, where many died in the Holocaust. Through the eyes of Sol and Lisa we see the injustice and heartbreak that were caused by the prejudice and hatred of so many.

Featuring: Kathy Kacer

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Kathy Kacer has won many awards for her writing, including the Silver Birch, the Red Maple, the Hackmatack, and the Jewish Book Award. In 1999 she wrote her first book in Second Story Press' Holocaust Remembrance Series for Young Readers, The Secret of Gabi's Dresser. Since then she has penned over 25 other books for young readers, including The Underground Reporters, Clara's War, The Night Spies, Hiding Edith, The Diary of Laura's Twin, To Look a Nazi in the Eye, The Brushmaker's Daughter, Under the Iron Bridge, and Hidden on the High Wire. She is the editor of We Are Their Voice: Young People Respond to the Holocaust. She also wrote two children's picture books: The Magician of Auschwitz, illustrated by Gillian Newland, and The Brave Princess and Me, illustrated by Juliana Kolesova.


A former psychologist, Kathy now travels the world speaking about her books and the need to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive. She also addresses adults about how to teach sensitive material to young children. Kathy Kacer lives in Toronto and is available for school and library readings, workshops, and presentations.


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