Our latest read for Mother-Daughter Book Club was Patricia Reilly Giff’s Lily’s Crossing. It takes place in 1944, and is about Lily, a girl who lives in New York and spends summers with her grandmother and father at the ocean in Rockaway. (Her mother is dead.) The summer of 1944 proves to be different than the ones that came before: her father is called off to support the war effort in Europe (not as a soldier, but helping to rebuild once the Allies recaptured occupied cities); her best friend Margaret leaves Rockaway because her father has been recruited to build bombers in Michigan; and a new boy, Albert, moves to Rockaway. Albert is a refugee from Hungary who has left behind a sister in Europe.
Lily is understandably upset about her friend and her father leaving, and she is worried about her father’s safety. His letters appear regularly, but he cannot tell her where he is. Meanwhile, she befriends Albert and learns about the circumstances that brought him to the United States and his plans to find and retrieve his sister.
Lily’s Crossing was not my favorite book club pick. I found it a little boring, and Lily’s self-absorption was frustrating. She had suffered her own terrible loss in life, but seemed incapable of being sympathetic to anyone else’s losses or fears. Instead, she was just focused on how the war had affected her. She did mature some by the end, but it took a while. Overall, the story was sweet – and moving – but a little dull.
My 9 year-old daughter didn’t like Lily’s Crossing at all. She thought it was boring and predictable. And I think that the politics of World War II were confusing to her. It was a chore for her to finish it.
So… if you’re looking for middle grade historical fiction, Lily’s Crossing wouldn’t be my first recommendation.