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The Upstairs Room

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Overview

A Life in Hiding

When the German army occupied Holland, Annie de Leeuw was eight years old. Because she was Jewish, the occupation put her in grave danger-she knew that to stay alive she would have to hide. Fortunately, a Gentile family, the Oostervelds, offered to help. For two years they hid Annie and her sister, Sini, in the cramped upstairs room of their farmhouse.

Most people thought the war wouldn't last...

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Overview

A Life in Hiding

When the German army occupied Holland, Annie de Leeuw was eight years old. Because she was Jewish, the occupation put her in grave danger-she knew that to stay alive she would have to hide. Fortunately, a Gentile family, the Oostervelds, offered to help. For two years they hid Annie and her sister, Sini, in the cramped upstairs room of their farmhouse.

Most people thought the war wouldn't last long. But for Annie and Sini — separated from their family and confined to one tiny room — the war seemed to go on forever.

In the part of the marketplace where flowers had been sold twice a week-tulips in the spring, roses in the summer-stood German tanks and German soldiers. Annie de Leeuw was eight years old in 1940 when the Germans attacked Holland and marched into the town of Winterswijk where she lived. Annie was ten when, because she was Jewish and in great danger of being cap-tured by the invaders, she and her sister Sini had to leave their father, mother, and older sister Rachel to go into hiding in the upstairs room of a remote farmhouse.
Johanna de Leeuw Reiss has written a remarkably fresh and moving account of her own experiences as a young girl during World War II. Like many adults she was innocent of the German plans for Jews, and she might have gone to a labor camp as scores of families did. It won't be for long and the Germans have told us we'll be treated well, those families said. What can happen? They did not know, and they could not imagine.... But millions of Jews found out.
Mrs. Reiss's picture of the Oosterveld family with whom she lived, and of Annie and Sini, reflects a deep spirit of optimism, a faith in the ingenuity,backbone, and even humor with which ordinary human beings meet extraordinary challenges. In the steady, matter-of-fact, day-by-day courage they all showed lies a profound strength that transcends the horrors of the long and frightening war. Here is a memorable book, one that will be read and reread for years to come.

A Dutch Jewish girl describes the two-and-one-half years she spent in hiding in the upstairs bedroom of a farmer's house during World War II.

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Editorial Reviews

. .
In this fine autobiographical novel, Johanna Reiss depicts the trials of her Dutch-Jewish family during World War II. . . . The youngest of three daughters tells how she and her sister hid for more than two years in the upstairs room of the peasant Oosterveld family. . . . Offers believable characterizations of unremarkable people who survived, if not thrived, and displayed an adaptability and generosity probably beyond their own expectations.
Elie Wiesel
"An admirable account . . . as important in every respect as the one bequeathed to us by Anne Frank.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780064470438
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/28/1987
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 153,389
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 380L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 0.38 (d)

Meet the Author

Johanna Reiss was born and brought up in Holland. After she was graduated from college, she taught elementary school for several years before coming to the United States to live. Her first book for children, The Upstairs Room, was a Newbery Honor Book, an American Library Association Notable Children's Book, and a Jane Addams Peace Association Honor Book, and it won the Jewish Book Council Juvenile Book Award and the Buxtehuder Bulle, a prestigious German children's book award.Mrs. Reiss writes that soon after she had finished Tie Upstairs Room, she found "there was still something I wanted to say, something that was as meaningful to me as the story I had told in the first book, the story of a war. 'The fighting has stopped'; 'Peace treaty signed,' newspapers announce at the conclusion of every war. From a political point of view, the war is over, but in another sense it has not really ended. People are fragile. They are strong, too, but wars leave emotional scars that take a long time to heal, generations perhaps. I know this to be true of myself, and of others. And out of those feelings came The Journey Back, a story of the aftermath of the Second World War."Though Mrs. Reiss lives with her daughters in New York City, they make frequent visits to Holland to visit Mrs. Reiss's sisters, Rachel and Sini, and Johan and Dientje Oosterveld.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I was not very old in 1938, just six, and a little thing. Little enough to fit between the wall and Father's chair, which in those days was always pulled up in front of the radio. He sat with his face close to the radio, bent forward, with his legs spread apart, his arms resting on his knees. And he listened.

"Father, look at this." I held out a drawing I had made.

"Ssht."

"Father, I asked you to...

He listened, but not to me.

Where was Austria, which Hitler had attached to Germany in the spring? It was not a nice thing to have done, I guessed. Father had looked angry.

Hitler. All the man on the radio ever talked about was Hitler. He must be an important man in Germany. Why didn't he like German Jews? Because he didn't. Why else would he be bothering them. The radio said he did.

"Father."

"Ssht."

Or why would he let Jews buy food only at certain hours? Or arrest them and put them in jail? Only the jail was called a camp. But Germany wasn't Holland. I smiled . A good thing!, If we lived in Germany, Hitler might do the same thing to us. He must have been the man who had just told the German people they could steal things from Jews. Anything they liked they could take. Or burn. The German people could even arrest Jews, just like that.

The radio said something had happened. A Jewish boy had killed a German man. That wasn't nice. But allowing people to run through the streets in Germany one night and do all those things to the Jews was not nice either. It had a special name that night: Kristallnacht.

"Father, what does KristalInacht mean?"

"Ssht, Annie. I'm listening."

That wasall Father said to me these days. And I didn't like it. He used to say much more to me, nice things. Even play with me. How could I ever find out anything if he never answered questions? I got to my feet. Mother would tell me. I walked into her bedroom to ask her what the word KristalInacht meant, but she had a headache again. How come bad kidneys give you headaches?

Well anyway, Germany wasn't Holland. I frowned. Winterswijk was near the German border though, less than twenty minutes away. That's how close it was. Some farmers lived so close to the border that their cows grazed in Germany, only across the road from their houses. I knew because Father was a cattle dealer, and he often took me with him when he went to buy COWS.

I was glad we lived right in Winterswijk, not so close to Germany that you could see it from your room. I saw something much nicer when I looked out of my window: the house of the Gans family, which was right across the street. The Ganses often waved to me at night when I leaned out the window -- the old man and woman and their big son. "Get back in bed," they'd call, "or we'll tell your mother."

That wouldn't be bad. As long as they didn't tell my sisters. I had two of them, Sini and Rachel. Big sisters, sixteen and twenty-one. And then there was Marie' our sleep-in maid, who was almost like a sister. We all lived in our house in the center of town, away from that border.

After the bad night in Germany, a meeting was held at our house. The Gans family came, all three of them, and Uncle Bram, who was in the cattle business with Father, and his wife. Uncle Phil was there without his wife because Aunt Billa and Mother didn't speak to each other. It had to do with my grandmother, who lived with Aunt Billa and Uncle Phil but who came to our house every day to complain about them. I knew. I had heard her. When I sat at the top of the stairs, I could hear a great deal, whether the voices came from the bedroom upstairs or from the living room downstairs, as they did now. They were excited voices: "We must help those German Jews who cross the border to come to Winterswijk...They left everything behind in Germany..." "They need our help. I talked to some today..."Big raw scar on the face of one...German soldier... with whip."

"But why?" That was Mother.

"Because he was a Jew, Sophie." Father sounded impatient.

"It can't happen here...safe here...this isn't Germany...this is Holland, you know..." "That Hitler has war on his mind, Sophie, and we're Jews, too...

There, footsteps. I ran back to my room and climbed in bed. I pulled the blankets over my head.

A few months later Uncle Bram and his wife left for America. We went to the station to say good-bye. They must have been planning to stay for a long time. They took a lot of suitcases with them. And it must be far away, for Uncle Bram. said that Hitler would never be able to reach them in America.

"Sophie, why don't we go too?" Father said.

But Mother said she had too many headaches to leave Holland and start all over again. Waving, we remained at the station until the train went. With angry steps Father walked over to his car, opened it, and got in. He slammed the door and drove away, leaving us to walk home.

By the fall of 1939, Rachel had graduated from teachers' college. She found a job at one of the nursery schools in Winterswijk. Sini started to work on a farm. At night when Father and Mother went across the street to sit outside with the Gans family, Mother tried to talk about my sisters. "That Rachel...so capable...and Sini, studying for her milking diploma..." But I could tell from my window that nobody was listening to her. They were talking about the Germans who had invaded Poland...

The Upstairs Room. Copyright © by Johanna Reiss. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 85 )
Rating Distribution

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(63)

4 Star

(13)

3 Star

(6)

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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2006

    BEST BOOK

    such an awesome book!! i love books that have to do with the holocaust! this book has a sequel!! yes! READ THIS BOOK! it actually makes you like history!

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2011

    you must check it out

    I think this book is in tersting because of how childeran couldn't go to school because they were jewish.this book a boy life at time when he was a child who was jewish and had to hide from the Germans.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2006

    An Awesome Book!!!!!!!!

    The Upstairs room is one of the best books I've ever read! It is amazing how Annie and Sini can even bear the death of their mother, the war, not being with their father and sister, and not having a normal life! This book is an amazing book that you have to read!!!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2004

    An outstanding novel

    In my Language and Literacy class, we are starting to read the diary of Anne Frank. Also, we have to read another book about the Hollacost. I chose this book, and I'm so glad I did. My professor told me about this book and I knew right away that I had to read it. After finishing it, I get to do a collage and perform an oral presentation for it. I hope after my report that other people will be inspired to read it. It's a terrific book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2004

    Hidden From The World

    The Upstairs Room is an exciting book. It is all history, with the authors point of view of what happened to her sister and herself, how they had to hide themselves from the rest of the world for 2 1/2 long years. It amazes me how the Hanninks and the Oostervelds were both selfless and both risked their lives for two Jewish girls. Annie and Sini kept each other company in that upstairs back room. It also amazes me that they got along together and never fought.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2003

    An outstanding Book!!!

    A poignant and compelling story. The fact that it is based on a true story makes the novel very sad indeed. Ddespite constant danger, the couple hiding the girls (The Oostervelds were portrayed in the book as very selfless in their efforts to hide the two sisters, Anni and Sini from the Nazis.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2003

    Very Informational

    I thought it tought me how the lifestyles were for the jewish people at the time and the efort it took to run away to a better place.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2002

    Coming Back

    I am 37 yrs old. I read this book in 5th or 6th grade and it made such an impression on me I have thought about it, and searched for it, for years. I am buying it now to reread it. A very good book for a young person to read - they need to know about the holocaust to insure it never happens again. I never learned anything about the holocaust, other than maybe one line in a text book in high school, until college. These things really happened to people and we need to start making young people more aware of them.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2001

    The Upstair Room.................

    The Upstairs Room was a book I needed to read for a bookreport. I am in 6th grade and I loved it. A 8-year old Dutch Jewish girl needed to live in an upstairs room(farmhouse upstairs). At first it is boring but then when you keep on reading it, it becomes really fascinating. It took me 3 days to read it, and I usaully hate reading books. It is a book for people all ages can enjoy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2001

    The best book that I ever read!!!!!

    I think that this is a very interesting book and i think that they should make a book like this but for kids also. then the little kids will also get to know about the world war 2.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2001

    The Book is Inspiring

    The book is a wondreful book for kids to read.It is a book about courage and confidence.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2000

    The Upstairs Room

    I read this book when I was in 5th grade and I will never forget it. I could feel how the characters must have felt during this time and once you get started reading it, its hard to put it down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2000

    The Upstairs Room

    The Upstairs Room is a wonderful book that vividly portrays the life of a young ten-year old Jewish girl and her family during WWII. Annie is surprised by the unfair treatment she receives and eventually finds out that all the unjust treatment is occurring simply because she is Jewish. Johanna Reiss is the perfect author of this touching book because she was once the young girl that lived through the horrible time period of the Holocaust. One can easily get engrossed in this book and have a tough time putting this well written and moving book down. I encourage you to read this book and learn about Jews and the myriad of hardships they endured.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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