Deborah Hopkinson

Award Winning Author of Fiction & Nonfiction for Children & Teens

We Had to Be Brave

Escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport

We Had to Be Brave

Awards and Accolades

  • Kirkus Reviews Best Book
  • NCTE Orbis Pic­tus rec­om­mend­ed book
  • Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Award Notable Title

What is this book about?

Ruth David was grow­ing up in a small vil­lage in Ger­many when Adolf Hitler rose to pow­er in the 1930s. Under the Nazi Par­ty, Jew­ish fam­i­lies like Ruth’s expe­ri­enced ris­ing anti-Semit­ic restric­tions and attacks. Just going to school became dan­ger­ous. By Novem­ber 1938, anti-Semi­tism erupt­ed into Kristall­nacht, the Night of Bro­ken Glass, and unleashed a wave of vio­lence and forced arrests.

Days lat­er, des­per­ate vol­un­teers sprang into action to orga­nize the Kinder­trans­port, a res­cue effort to bring Jew­ish chil­dren to Eng­land. Young peo­ple like Ruth David had to say good-bye to their fam­i­lies, unsure if they’d ever be reunit­ed. Miles from home, the Kinder­trans­port refugees entered unrec­og­niz­able lives, where food, clothes — and, for many of them, lan­guage and reli­gion — were star­tling­ly new. Mean­while, the onset of war and the Holo­caust vis­it­ed unimag­in­able hor­rors on loved ones left behind. Some­how, these res­cued chil­dren had to learn to look for­ward, to hope.

Through the mov­ing and often heart-wrench­ing per­son­al accounts of Kinder­trans­port sur­vivors, Deb­o­rah Hop­kin­son paints the time­ly and dev­as­tat­ing sto­ry of how the rise of Hitler and the Nazis tore apart the lives of so many fam­i­lies and what they were forced to give up in order to save these children.


“Well-craft­ed, acces­si­ble, and essen­tial.” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

“[A] mov­ing trib­ute to the orga­niz­ers of the Kinder­trans­port and to the courage of the chil­dren involved. Gen­er­ous­ly illus­trat­ed with black-and-white pho­tographs, the book is extreme­ly well researched and a valu­able con­tri­bu­tion to Holo­caust lit­er­a­ture.” (Book­list)

“Hop­kin­son nev­er min­i­mizes or ratio­nal­izes; read­ers learn that 90 per­cent of the chil­dren res­cued on the Kinder­trans­port would nev­er see their fam­i­lies again. Her dis­tin­guished book tells a sto­ry of suf­fer­ing and resilience with sen­si­tiv­i­ty and respect for the truth.” (Jew­ish Book Coun­cil)

We Had to Be Brave

author, Deb­o­rah Hop­kin­son
Scholas­tic Focus
ages 8 and up, 2020
ISBN 978–1338255720

buy the book