The Journey Backby Johanna Reiss
The Second World War is over. Annie and her sister Sini, who have been hiding from the Germans for almost three years, are free again. They leave the hamlet of Usselo and the Oosterveld family that had sheltered them and return to their hometown. Their father also survived as did their sister, Rachel. The Journey Back tells of what can happen to members of a family, Jews in this case, when reunion demonstrates they no longer know each other. The book speaks for all people at all times and is as moving as its predecessor, The Upstairs Room.
-Review for the prequel to this book, The Upstairs Room
- San Val, Incorporated
- Publication date:
- Age Range:
- 12 - 14 Years
Read an Excerpt
It is not easy to find Usselo. On many maps of Holland you cannot find it at all, only on those that list every village, no matter how tiny. Not many people, however, care to know where Usselo is. Why, there is hardly anything there-fields, a cafe, a bakery, a school, a church and parsonage, a kind of dry-goods store in a house, and farmhouses, but only a handful of those. There's no more than that in Usselo. Such a quiet little village, where life was orderly and pleasant for years and years and years.
Sometimes there would be a wedding, or a funeral to which every fanner went, walking two by two behind the hearse, talking in hushed and not so hushed voices.
"Quiet, he's not buried yet." "But what's true's true. He was as dumb as a pig's ass. Take how he planted potatoes ... no good ... right smack next to each other ... told'm so, too ... wouldn't listen. He could never have gotten as many basketfuls as he said he did. If you ask me, Id say he was a liar."
There were dances, too, in the cafe, where an accordion player pulled and pushed and pressed down on keys and buttons with fingers that werestiff from farmwork, while around him, legs waltzed and polkaed inside tight black pants and long black skirts, and lace caps slid off, showing hair that was stiff and shiny from sweet milk that had been rubbed on to make it so.
Year after year, every season, the same things happened in Usselo. In the winter pigs were slaughtered, and the farmers visited each other, sipping from glasses as they commented on the animal that was hanging from a ladder in front of them, cut open
"She's got a tasty border of fat on'r, not likeWillem's pig we just saw...." "Some sausage this one will make -- No, thanks, not another drop.Don't forget, we've got three more calls to make today. All right, a little bit then, to wet the throat."
And back on their bikes they'd go bemuse soon it would be time to milk the cows.
During the rest of the year they saw each other, too, the farmers of Usselo. Outside, in the fields, behind plows and wielding sickles, on hay wagons, and as they were binding the sheaves of rye, wearing straw hats this time, against the sun; the women in white aprons with long sleeves but no gloves, their hands scratched and their nails broken. And they saw each other with baskets of seed potatoes on their arms, and turnips, and cabbage. They knew each other well. But then there were sofew of them, not more than a handful.
The Oostervelds lived in Usselo, and had for over fifty Years. Their farm was small. When Johan Oosterveld was a child, he went to the oneroom schoolhouse, just like. the few other children in Usselo. Sometimes he played soccer, as they did, but only sometimes and never for more than a short time. His father was sick; Johan was an only child, and even though the farm was small, there was a lot of work that had to be done.
"Johan, Joha-a-an, come home." And his mother would give him a piece of bread on which she had sprinkled salt, so he'd be able to taste the thin layer of butter better; before she sent him to get the horse and plow. And off he would go, down the road, to where the fields were. "C'mon, horse; come, come, come." It was not easy to make straight furrows in the soil. He was only eleven, Johan, and the plow was heavy.
His father continued to be sick for six more years. Johan no longer went to school at all or played. He had no time.
"Too bad," his teacher said when Johan didn't come back. "That boy has brains, Vrouw Oosterveld. He could go far, become a teacher, like me .... 11 Instead it was "C'mon, horse; come, come, come" year after Year after Year. But I did not know any of this then. How could I? I was not even born yet.
When Johan was seventeen, his father died.
"Take it easy for a few days now," his mother said. "Look around and find someone to marry. But, please, don't choose a girl from the city. They don't know what work is. Get someone With a good pair of hands, Johan, to help.),
"Leave it to me, Ma" Johan said. "I'll see what I can do.
He looked around Usselo. Then in the next village the one that was only half a mile away, he found Dientje. "Wait till you see her, Ma," he said "She's got a real pair of hands on her -- you won't believe how big they are. We can both. take it easy from now on. She's a lot older than me, too.Shemust really know how 10 I work. And I'll tell you something else. We're going to be rich. She's got a real -- "what-d'you-call it -- dowry. Some beddingand this youll. love, Ma, five chickens and none of them scrawny. Maybe even a cow if I play my cards right. Eh?"
"My Johan," his mother said proudly, wiping her eyes.
After the wedding the three of them lived in the little farmhouse -- Johan, Dientje, and Johan's mother -- Opoe, as everyone called her, although she never did become a grandmother. And life went on. Orderly and pleasant enough, until --But not yet. There were more weddings and funerals to go to first, more plowing to do and harvesting and sausage making.
Johan and his mother still worked very hard. "It's funny, Ma, with such hands who would've thought... Dienje always wants to rest"
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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When i think of World War II the first thing that comes to mind was the hardships and cruel treatment of the Jews in Germany. The JOurney Back was a good depiction of a common Jewish family in Holland. After being forced to hide from the Nazis, the de Leeuws had to learn how to rebuild their lives and move on from a tragic experience. When hiding from the Nazis the family has to search for a safe and secure home where they won't be caught. This is a good book if you want a quick outlook on the Holocaust.