July 1939: Three Jewish refugee children from Germany and Austria, the ‘Kindertransport’, waiting to be collected by their relatives or sponsors at Liverpool Street Station, London, after arriving by special train. (Photo by Stephenson/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
This May we published No Ballet Shoes in Syria by Catherine Bruton – a captivating story, filled with warmth and heart, with wonderfully authentic ballet writing and an important message championing the rights of refugees.
It is a book which feels particularly timely at the moment: this week is Refugee Week: an annual, nationwide programme of arts, cultural and educational events that celebrate the contribution of refugees to the UK, and encourages a better understanding between communities.
And we recently received an incredibly moving and powerful message about No Ballet Shoes in Syria from Rachel Meier, a Waterstones bookseller, which she has very kindly given us permission to reproduce below. Here is Rachel’s letter:
I received a reading copy of No Ballet Shoes in Syria by Catherine Bruton not long ago, and I just read it and wanted to tell you that I loved it. I saw the video on your website of Catherine talking about it and knew it would be a book for me, but I didn’t anticipate just how hard it would hit me.
The writing is so lovely and the story is so sensitively told, really powerful and vitally important. I think this is a book that will really change how kids see the world and that is such an amazing thing. We have it on our ‘diverse books’ table at work and I am so excited to recommend it to everyone I can!
The thing that really struck me is the parallels drawn between refugees from the second world war and refugees today (and I also appreciated the explanation given of the difference between asylum seekers and refugees). My grandparents were all Jewish refugees who came to England after the second world war, so Miss Helena’s story really moved me. Catherine may have seen the photo I’ve attached while doing research (the description of Miss Helena’s sister with the long plaits in particular made me think she might have) – the girl with the plaits and the doll is my Grandma, on the Kindertransport (you can see her twin brother’s knee next to her!). We only discovered the photo by chance because a family friend recognised my Granna. It makes me both sad and pleased that people are still learning about this as it is such an important piece of all of our histories.
You can see the photograph of Rachel’s Grandma at the top of this post – we are so grateful to Rachel for sharing her family’s story.
And here’s the video that Rachel mentions, of Catherine describing the inspirations behind the book: