Reviews | Jana Zinser

Reviews for The Children’s Train

5 Stars. “Zinser has written a heart-wrenching, epic story that follows lives of several children that survived (as well as the fates of their families); from the beginning occupation through the end of the war. Zinser takes readers from escape of occupied territories, into hiding, to safety, the concentration camps; and then back undercover behind enemy lines.

The Children's TrainAs someone that has had an ongoing interest in Holocaust studies and education, what I really like about The Children’s Train is that this novel gives the reader an in depth look; both in varying viewpoints and through a broad scope of experiences, making it a perfect introductory-look into the history of the Holocaust. It is thoroughly engaging from start to finish. After reading, you not only have a better picture of the many devastating situations endured by Holocaust victims and survivors; you also have a clearer understanding of Nazi and German (not mutually inclusive) people’s positions and actions. Yes, some believed in Hitler’s plan of hate. Others acted based on financial reasoning and many more out of fear.

The subject matter may be a little heavy for young readers but I’d certainly recommend it for high school through adults. Zinser tells the story simply, without over-dramatizing or trying to be graphically-shocking. By the very nature of the events, even through the author’s delicate handling, it might be too overwhelming for younger children.

The young lives of Peter, Eva and all the others will tug at your heart and inspire you. You’ll discover hope in humanity though quiet, unassuming acts of courage and heroism; and mourn the lives of those that were lost.

Though 10,000 children may have been spared by the Kindertransport; 6 million Jews lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis — many of them children. This is their unforgettable story.”

~Jeff Linamen for How Do You Measure 525600 Minutes? A Year in the Life


A beautifully written book. Sadly, the historical details are true and this makes the story all the more poignant. At times heartbreaking, at times hopeful and optimistic, this book will stay with the reader for a long time. The author is definitely one to watch.

~Dorothy M Calderwood (Media Professional) for NetGalley


“This was an incredibly engaging story for me because I had no idea such a thing existed. The Kindertransport was something new that I’m now highly motivated to learn more about. For that reason alone, it was a book I just couldn’t put down. The characters and storylines were good as well…a great story about an interesting subject!”

~Shawna Briseno (Educator) for Random Book Muses


5 stars. “The Children’s Train by Jana Zinser absolutely blew me away! Heartbreaking, terrifying and traumatic it was also filled with hope and courage, determination and inspiration. Over six million Jews died at the hands of the Nazis and many of them were children. Though The Children’s Train is fiction, the sad and tragic truth stands out and stays with you. I know this book will stay with me! The Children’s Train is an absolute credit to this author and I have no hesitation in recommending it extremely highly.”

~Brenda Telford for NetGalley


5 stars. “Have tissue handy as you read through the pages of this amazing tale. It is a great read that will have tears streaming down your cheeks as you come across the great injustice suffered by the children. I could not put this book down as it had me addicted wanting to know and hoping that each character would in the end be happy. An emotional roller coaster as I’m crying in one chapter and cheering in the next. Highly recommended for I truly enjoyed reading this book.”

~Arlene Ciausu for NetGalley


“This was a very powerful story about children who have a strong will to survive and the people in their lives who help and hurt them.”

~Cynthia Garrett for NetGalley


“I found this an interesting story on the subject of the holocaust from the children’s viewpoint… This book would be a good beginning for older primary school pupils to learn of the difficulties faced by their peers of the period.”

~Sue Andrew for NetGalley


5 stars. “Jana Zinser brilliantly expresses the horror, confusion and fear that not only Peter but the other children in the novel are feeling and thinking when witnessing the atrocities by the Nazis… When I began this book I thought that I had quite a lot of knowledge about the Holocaust but I was surprised to learn about the Kindertransport children. Although this novel is fiction, the Kindertransport was not and I will never forget about the ones that made it on those trains and also the ones who did not.”

~Amanda Wragg for NetGalley


5 stars. “I’m positive that I held my breath for most of this book. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’d held my breath for the entire time I’d been reading this. This book was so unlike any other I’ve ever read. It’s gripping, powerful, heartbreaking and intense – so, so, so intense. During the terrible reign of Adolf Hitler, the kindertransport brought Jewish children away from Germany and into England, where they were all scattered into different families or parts of England where it was thought they’d be kept safe from Hitler’s reach. The stories of each individual character in the book were horrifying; especially knowing that it was all based on real facts. I know I cried through about half of the book – all the way to the end… I honestly have no words right now; this book was amazing and thrilling, and so sad.”

~Leah Gasentzo for NetGalley


5 stars. “This is a great introductory-level novel to the Holocaust. As someone that has had a lifelong interest in WWII and Holocaust studies, I like that this novel gives a variety of viewpoints and experiences…Jewish, German, Nazi, Resistance, British…they’re all included in a realistic account. It is thoroughly engaging from start to finish. After reading, you have a better picture of the many devastating situations endured by Holocaust victims and survivors, as well as a clearer understanding of people’s positions and actions. But it’s still all at an introductory level.

The novel is a little heavy for young readers, but I’d certainly recommend it for high school through adults. It’s written without over-dramatizing or trying to be graphically-shocking, but the very nature of the events, even through the author’s delicate handling, could be overwhelming.”

~Yvie Field (Educator) for NetGalley


“I realize that this book is a work of fiction but the ‘kindertransport’, organized to rescue children from Nazi Germany was real. Jana Zinser brings us such realistic characters that it is easy to see them as true victims. There are times that the book makes difficult reading, mainly because it is beyond our comprehension that these events took place but there is also a positive feel, as we are reminded of the wonderful people who organized and funded the ‘kindertransport’. A great historical fiction novel.”

~Caroline Ward for NetGalley


5 stars. “The book is heartrending and at times difficult to read due to the subject matter, but I believe this type of book must be written and read to keep the memories of the evil that happened during the Holocaust alive, and to help prevent it ever happening again. It is a work of fiction but the situations depicted are ones that happened again and again to real life families all over Europe before and during the war. It is very well written, realistic and sometimes quite stark, never flinching from the truth of the situation. I would definitely recommend this book.”

~Fiona McCormick for NetGalley


5 stars. “This is definitely a book that I’d recommend for older elementary school kids, maybe 5th or 6th grade and up. Our daughters visited concentration camps while on a field trip with their school while in Germany and I wish everyone had a chance to do so. No one would doubt the Holocaust if they experienced such a trip.

That said, this book showed a side of the war that not everyone has heard of, that of the Kindertransport that some of the Jewish children to safety in England.

The book starts out with some of the milder interactions between some of the Nazis and the Jewish people, but those interactions quickly escalate and get very ugly, very quickly, most likely this happened similarly in real life.

The book can be hard to read, especially for people that just can’t understand how people could be so cruel to other human beings. I think it’s something important for people to remember though, especially children today, because I think the history of Hitler and the Third Reich isn’t taught as much as it should be. I’d definitely recommend this.”

~MaryAnn Schaefer for NetGalley


5 stars. “From bleakness emerges a story about a pivotal period in history. It’s a rich portrayal about Kindertransport children who were transported out of Germany to London when the massive attack on Jews changed ‘everything’. Six Hundred thousand Jewish Children were in need of being rescued. Fluid storytelling and well-drawn characters make this novel compulsively readable. It’s appropriate reading for as young as middle school children to read to adults. Jana Zinser educates the less knowledgeable reader about the holocaust, with dignity and sensitivity. The factual details mixed with a cast of breathtaking vivid characterless so persuasive and interesting…( troubling ), that even the more advance – adult reader- will have a hell of a hard time pulling away. I ‘had’ to read this in one sitting. ( tears a ‘few’ times). This was one of those books–where I did not touch my phone once- did not touch the internet once-didn’t give a damn about the dirty dishes in the sink- laundry that needed to be done – or any hunger.

Thank You BQB Publishing, Netgalley, and Jana Zinser ( a wonderful storyteller).”

~Elyse Walters for NetGalley


“‘Where there is life, there is hope.’ This is the theme that permeates this novel based on the historic events of the Kindertransport which helped Jewish children flee German (and other European countries) for England. Although this is a novel and the individuals are not real, the author was able to paint a picture of these times and places in a way that made them come alive in a heart-wrenching way.

The story jumps between the viewpoints of several of the children and the families they left behind as well as the lives of children unable to escape, showing the wide variations in lives led based on what boils down to the luck of the draw. This would be a good novel for late elementary to maybe early high school as a companion to talking about WWII and the Holocaust.

A picture and story from Humans of New York a few years back really stuck with me and came to mind several times during the story. The woman said: ‘I lived in Poland, so we were persecuted from the first day of the war. First they took us from our home, then they put us in a ghetto, then they made us march, then they sent us to the camps. I was separated from everyone, but my brother later told me that my father froze to death. But I have children now, and grandchildren, and great grandchildren– a great big family, all of them educated. Look at everything that came from just one person who escaped. Just goes to show that you can never kill a people with hate. There will always be someone left to carry on.'”

~Rachel Stansel for NetGalley


5 stars. “So much has been written about the Holocaust, but the story of the Kindertransport is truly unique. I knew that children in Britain had been sent to the countryside to escape the bombing during WWII, but I never knew that many young Jewish children had also been sent to England to escape Hitler’s Germany. The story follows the fortunes of a group of neighborhood children, some of whom escape on the children’s train, and some of whom do not. It was hard to put this book down; the characters were so engaging, I couldn’t wait to see what happened to them! With war refugees in the news so much these days, The Children’s Train really struck a chord.”

~Christine Ferguson for NetGalley


5 stars. “I found myself holding my breath through quite a lot of it. It seemed as though someone was always close to danger. I think the writer did a great job with the story and while it is a tragic one, I found it to be very entertaining and I did not want to put the book down. I was definitely cheering for the these children…It was insightful, poignant and really worth reading. I highly recommend doing so.”

~Deb Krenzer for NetGalley


“It’s a heart-wrenching tale, made all the more poignant because we know it accurately portrays life for the German Jewish children in the Third Reich.”

~Terri Wangard for NetGalley


5 stars. “The writing is simplistic at first , but the story is not. It’s horrifying and moving and enlightening and as heartbreaking and as gut wrenching as anything I’ve read about the holocaust ; yet it is hopeful . The horrors and the fears faced by the Jewish children in this novel were faced by the one and a half million children who were killed by the Nazis but the children in this story represent some of the 10,000 who were saved by the British on the Kindertransport , the train taking them from Germany to England to save them from the Nazis.

When I read about children of the holocaust, I am , of course reminded of Anne Frank and The Diary of a Young Girl and I think about Hana’s Suitcase: A True Story. When I read about brave and good people trying to save their fellow human beings , I reminded of My Mother’s Secret: A Novel Based on a True Holocaust Story. I am always reminded of The Street Sweeper because all of these books say to us “Don’t let them forget.” Zinser has done a beautiful job of doing just that . I highly recommend this book .”

~Angela Murray for NetGalley


“I knew nothing about the WW2 Kindertransport and was pleased to be given the chance to read this historical fictional novel. It’s particularly timely now, when we have so many thousands of children fleeing bombs or oppression and/or torture, but with not enough places willing to take them in.

The text is simple and direct. The facts alone are horrifying enough, although we get a fair sense of the rot, the filth, the smell of death – and the cold and hunger, of course.”

~Pat McKelvey for NetGalley


“I am often on the fence about whether I want to read another novel set during WWII. Good novels that depict this horrific part of history can be so painful, and bad novels are such an insult to the suffering of all people who died or survived during WWII. So I read novels set in that period, but I try to choose them carefully. I read The Children’s Train based on Angela’s great review and I’m glad I did. It’s based on the real historical Kindertransport — the courageous and forward thinking transportation of several thousand Jewish children out of Germany to England before the war. It tells the story of an interrelated set of characters, some who were able to leave Germany and some who weren’t. The story is mostly told from the perspective of the children. It is horrific and moving. It brings to life the horrendous decision parents had to make about whether to send their children away. With 20/20 hindsight, it’s obvious that it was the right the decision. But at the time when Jews faced brutality but didn’t know where things were going, I can’t imagine making the decision these parents had to make. That part of the book is heart wrenching. The book is also about what happens after the children are moved to England, moving back and forth between the families left behind and the relocated children. To me, the story became a bit unrealistic in the last quarter when one of the main characters becomes very actively involved in the Resistance. And there are a few improbable coincidences. But this is a minor complaint. This is a very moving novel, highlighting real and important events during WWII. It strikes me that it’s a book that would work for my 14 year old daughter, as a way to understand the horror of the war and the courage of people who survived and who helped others survive. It contains enough information about the brutality perpetrated by the Nazis to be real, but it leaves enough unsaid to be appropriate for a younger audience. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for an opportunity to read The Children’s Train.”

~Lise Favreau for NetGalley


5 stars. “This book was just heartbreaking. It has been a long time since I read anything to do with the Nazi’s and Jewish people during the war. I enjoyed how this story followed several characters throughout instead of just one or two. I enjoyed the characters, and in my opinion I thought the fictional telling of this story could be very close to how it happened to some people.”

~Kristen Prescott (Librarian) for NetGalley


5 stars. “I highly recommend this novel, it should be required reading for middle and high school students so this history can never be repeated.”

~Peggy Geiger for NetGalley


5 stars. “Little did I know that once I started reading this I would find it very hard to put down.

There really aren’t any words I could write here that could make anyone read this book, particularly given the subject, but it surely is a book that needs to be read to ensure something as horrific and tragic as this never happens again.

…the novel is very informative and engrossing and I would highly recommend this book as reading for teenagers to help them understand another aspect of the Holocaust. I am always indecisive when it comes to the issue of whether to read another novel on this subject, but I am glad I read this and will be looking out for more from this author in the future.”

~Catherine Agosta


“A well-written and sensitive account of the trains that attempted to take the Jewish children to safety during WWII. Are there sections that are ugly and disturbing? Yes, because you can’t write an accurate story of Nazi atrocities without it being ugly and disturbing. Highly recommended.”

~Franny Burd (Educator) for NetGalley