Cover image for Isabel's war
Isabel's war
Perl, Lila, author.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Brooklyn, New York : Lizzie Skurnick Books, [2014]

Physical Description:
229 pages ; 20 cm
Twelve-year-old Isabel has no interest in the war in Europe until her family welcomes Helga, a German war refugee, into their home in the Bronx.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
J FICTION Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf
J FICTION Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



In a stunning new novel completed just before her death in 2013, award-winning author Lila Perl introduces us to Isabel Brandt, a French-phrase-dropping twelve-year-old New Yorker who's more interested in boys and bobbing her nose than the distant war across the Pacific--the one her parents keep reminding her to care more about. Things change when Helga, the beautiful niece of her parent's best friends, comes to live with Isabel and her family. Helga is everything Isabel's not--cool, blonde, and vaguely aloof. She's also a German war refugee, with a past that gives a growing Isabel something more important to think about than boys and her own looks. Set in the Bronx during World War II, Isabel's War is a beautiful evocation of New York in the 1940s and of a girl's growing awareness of the world around her.

Author Notes

Lila Perl was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1921. She received a B. A. from Brooklyn College and pursued additional studies at both Columbia University and New York University. She started writing children's books when her two children were in elementary school. During her lifetime, she wrote more than 60 works of fiction and nonfiction. Her works include the Fat Glenda series, Isabel's War, Lilli's Quest, The Great Ancestor Hunt: The Fun of Finding Out Who You Are, To the Golden Mountain: The Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad, and Behind Barbed Wire: The Story of Japanese Internment During World War II. In 1996, she co-authored the memoir Four Perfect Pebbles: A Holocaust Story with Marion Bluementhal Lazan. She died in December 2013 at the age of 92.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Helga is harboring a secret. A beautiful Jewish girl delivered from Hitler's Germany by the Kindertransport, she is living with relatives in New York when she meets Isabel at an upstate summer resort. The young teen from the Bronx narrates the story and relates how she is both resentful of and fascinated by the enigmatic older girl, who seems to feel she hasn't earned her escape. Isabel's own life seems boring by comparison, but as the war goes on, affecting more and more around her, including her beloved older brother, she learns disturbing facts about the treatment of Jews in Europe, and her curiosity about Helga grows. When Helga's guardian dies and the teen disappears, it is up to Isabel to save the day. This second-to-last novel by the award-winning Perl is filled with World War II home front info, and though it reads a bit clumsily at times, it will nevertheless be of interest to historical fiction buffs eager to delve into the era and figure out the mystery of Helga's disappearance.--Cruze, Karen Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Published posthumously, Perl's moving WWII novel set in the Bronx traces a Jewish girl's growing awareness of the atrocities occurring overseas. At first, 12-year-old Isabel views the war as an inconvenience, bemoaning new rationing rules and the growing shortages of luxury items. Similarly, she resents the arrival of Helga, a beautiful German refugee with "a swanlike neck, and luminous gray-green eyes," who ends up living with Isabel's family when Helga's American guardian turns ill. But as Isabel gleans bits of information about Helga's horrific experiences in Germany and in England, where she was delivered as part of the Kindertransport, Isabel's heart gradually softens. Now her problem is getting others to believe Helga's tales and persuading Helga that she is not to blame for what her family suffered. This coming-of-age story offers an authentic glimpse of the 1940s American war effort and corresponding sentiments while introducing a realistically flawed heroine whose well-meaning efforts sometimes backfire. A revelation about Helga's past and the mystery of what happened to her immediate family members will whet appetites for the novel's completed sequel. Ages 8-12. (Nov.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up-Isabel Brandt is a typical 12-year-girl who dreams of Frank Sinatra, boys, and being popular in school. But it is 1942, and the war in Europe and the Pacific becomes very significant for this Jewish girl from the Bronx. As her family begins their summer vacation in the Catskills, Isabel meets Helga, her new roommate. She is the niece of her mother's best friend, Mrs. Frankfurter, and a refugee from Germany. Helga is very attractive and Isabel can't understand why she doesn't enjoy all the attention. Instead she is shy, distant, and almost remorseful, as if she's harboring a dark secret from her past that she can't escape. When Isabel's brother enlists in the army, it forces the family to return to the Bronx. Shortly after, Mrs. Frankfurter becomes seriously ill and Helga must live with Isabel and her family. Things are awkward at first, but the experience enables Isabel to expand her horizons. Published posthumously, Perl's work is a skillfully woven and poignant story dealing with important themes, such as belonging, friendship, self-worth, betrayal, and discrimination. As Isabel learns about the war and the treatment of Jews by Nazis, her relationship with Helga and her outlook on life radically changes. Readers will identify with the protagonist as she discovers what things are truly important.-Donna Rosenblum, Floral Park Memorial High School, NY (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.