The Upstairs Room

The Upstairs Room

by Johanna Reiss


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Newbery Honor Book • ALA Notable Book • An SLJ Best Book • A Jane Addams Award Honor Book • Winner of the Jewish Book Council Children’s Book Award

A classic WWII survivor story based on award-winning author Johanna Reiss’s own childhood during the Holocaust. Now with a beautiful new cover and revised author’s note.

When the German army occupied Holland in 1940, Annie was only eight years old. Because she was Jewish, the occupation put her in grave danger. Most people thought the war wouldn’t last long, but Annie knew that if she wanted to stay alive, she would have to go into hiding.

Fortunately, a Gentile family, the Oostervelds, offered refuge to Annie and her older sister, Sini. For two years they hid in the cramped upstairs room of the Oostervelds’s remote farmhouse. There, Annie and Sini would struggle to hold on to hope—separated from their family and confined to one tiny room—as a frightful and seemingly endless war raged on outside their window.

This classic autobiographical novel is a strong choice for classroom sharing and independent reading.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062849809
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/02/2019
Edition description: Revised
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 494,742
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About 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.

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.


"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.



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...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 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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The Upstairs Room 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 103 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book. Highly recommended to ages 8+. Im only 10, bit i love this book! Full of action, suspense, sadness, and it pulls you in from the very start. The sadness is not so hreat, but still a good book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book in my Language Arts class thinking it would be an easy A and that it'd be mediocre at worst. Boy, was I wrong! A lovely tale written from a child's point of view and just an amazing book in general. The epilogue really was the cherry on top, and I recommend it to all who enjoyed the movie "La Vita e Bella (Life Is Beautiful)".
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really good read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have been reading it in class and so far its interesting....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Upstairs Room is a great book. It is based on a true story about the author. The Oservils were also real people. It is also very interesting. The Upstars Room is a very very good book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At first I didnt like how this book was written but as I kept reading it got better and better and I wanted to find out what was going to happen next. Im going to start the sequal now.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In this book, the Germans are at war with the Jews. A family is split apart and have to go away in hiding until the war ends. I think the the author does a really good job engaging the reader. I feel this way because as I read I get a realyl clear image in my head of what is going on. I can also imagine how the characters are feeling through this horrible time. In this book, I like how the author explains how each character feels during the war. I also like how descriptive and detailed she is while talking about this war. Something I have a question about is the backround of HItler. All I know is that he was in charge of the Germans and was a horrible person. I'd like to know how old he was and what his family was like. I think a teenager would engoy this booko. Someone younger would enjoy this book more than someone older because you learn a lot about the effects that the war had on many people. Someone older probably all ready has an idea of what happened between the Germans and Jews.
betsyeggers on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a very well written book for young adults about Annie and her sister, Sini, who are two young Jewish girls that are hidden away by their Gentile neighbors during WWII. The book has a lot of suspense, especially when the Nazi soldiers come to the house checking for hidden Jews, but there are also issues as depicted by Annie between the Jews and the Gentiles. This is a great book for young adults to read to learn more about aspect of the Holocaust, even though it is a fiction book based off of actual events.I would recomment this book for my library (medium public library).
Amabel300 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A beautifully done story of something that I'm sure happened all too commonly.
n_yay on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Oh I love this one; it's one of my more frequently read books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book tells you about the struggles of a young girl as she grows to fall in love with the people who were hiding her and her sister from the nazis
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing book! The Upstairs room really paints a picture of the world war and Hiltler time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A 11 year old girl.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is really good. I like to sing Am i werid Plaes answer above $m!L#
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It really makes you see how there felt and live was as a part jaw it brings heart ach
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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. She was Jewish and in great danger of being captured by the invaders. She and her sister, Sini, had to leave their father and older sister, Rachel. Their mother was hospitalized due to daily migraines, and she refused to leave Holland and move to America to get away from Hitler and the Nazis like her husband wanted. Sini and Annie had to go into hiding in the upstairs room of a remote farmhouse to be safe. This book is about a little girl named Rachel who has an ill mother, two sisters, and a father who wants to get out of Holland to move to America and get away from Hitler because they are Jews. The author, Johanna Reiss, wrote this book because she was actually a part of the Leeuw family and felt like it was her job to tell the story of her past ancestors, and bring their story to the generation we now are in. This content of this book would be good for children eleven and up to read because of some of the language and curse words in the story because there is a certain quote near the beginning that says, “Not me. At night I listen to a Dutch broadcast from England. That’s for the real news. Those damn newspapers never tell you a damn thing. Nothing but lies.” I don’t think language like this is appropriate for children any younger than eleven or twelve. The writer of this book certainly put a lot of thought and effort into telling this story of the descendants in her family. She carefully considered the content of the book, and that’s why millions of people have read it. There are many Jewish and German words throughout the story, but other than those words, the statements are quite easy to understand and there is a clear meaning. You can always tell who is speaking, and I would say that I can easily tell what was happening. The only person we can really identify with is Johan; at least I think so. A comment from this story, made by him that causes us to be able to identify with him is when he says, “That’s all you women ever tell me. Get up, Johan. Go milk to cows, Johan. Feed the pigs, Johan. Why don’t you get up too, eh, and help me?” We can identify with this because married men are always talking about how much their wife nags them, and their wife always talks about how lazy the men are! Having to hide in the upstairs room of a farmhouse was definitely a challenge for the Leeuw sisters, but it was the only place they knew was safe. It tells the full story in detail and gives descriptions of each character throughout the story. The really great thing about this, is readers will enjoy this dangerous adventure and find it is something written just for them that they can get in to!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book gives an excellent idea, on the level of daily experience, of what it was like for Jewish people to find themselves needing to hide among Gentiles in Holland during the Holocaust, and what it was like for ordinary but caring people to risk their lives hiding them too.  Some of the reviews I have read say that this book is on the boring side, but I do not agree.  It is a fascinating look at the experiences of one family and two girls, and in particular the author, at a time when they were in effect imprisoned but hoping, no matter how hard it was to wait for the long months, weeks, days, hours, and minutes, to pass, that they wouldn't be discovered.  This book truly lets you step a little bit into their shoes, and a reader with imagination will find this an absorbing challenge.  However, I read this book to share with my fifth grade son, but I found I could not recommend it because of all the bad language in it.  Most particularly bothersome for me were the many vain uses of the name of God, something that for Jewish people who hold to their faith is a very serious matter indeed.  I was surprised to find it here, even if it was reflective of the reality of the author's experience. 
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