Review of "Lily’s Crossing"

Review by Catherine Baty
Giff, Patricia Reilly. (2008). Lily’s Crossing. [audiobook]
Lily is very excited to spend the summer at Rockaway beach with her grandmother. No piano practice, no school, and her best friend, Margaret! Things start to change when her grandmother decides to bring the piano, then once they arrive at Rockaway, she finds out that her best friend is moving to Detroit, and her father is getting sent overseas. Lily is distraught at this news, but there is something else to keep her attention. A new boy, Albert, with a strange accent moves to the neighborhood with the Orbans family. They don’t get along at first, even after rescuing a small cat from drowning. But, after nearly getting caught sneaking into the movies they begin to become friends. Albert tells Lily how his sister, Ruth, is stuck in France. They wouldn’t let her on the boat because she had measles. Albert desperately misses his sister. He wants to learn how to swim so he can get back to France to get his sister. He believes that Lily can row them out across the sea to a ship and once they are close enough, he can swim the rest of the way and stowaway to France. Lily knows this is an impossible thing, but she’s afraid to tell Albert the truth. Once she does, Albert does not accept this because he feels responsible for his sister being alone in France. During a stormy day, Albert tries to row out by himself. Lily manages to save him, but they lose one of the boats in the process. They spend most of the last days of summer having fun together. In the winter, back at school, Lily writes about her summer in her school journal. Her teacher, Sister Benedicta, tells her that she has promise as a writer. One morning, Lily’s father returns from the war, he tells her of Albert’s sister, who he was able to track down. It’s back to Rockaway that summer, but it doesn’t feel the same without Albert. Margaret and her family are still in Detroit, too. She misses her friends, but that night they are invited to the Orban’s for dinner. To her surprise, Albert and his sister Ruth are there!
This unabridged mp3 format audiobook was read by a single reader. Originally recorded in 1998, the sound quality was a little lacking when compared to newer audiobooks, however the added use of music and sound effects to create more meaningful moments throughout the book more than made up for that. The only negatives about the recording as a whole was that it could be a bit crackly at times. Dillon is a fantastic performer, her use of different voices, tone, and speed aided the listener in distinguishing voices and moments of intrigue. All together, the listening experience was an engaging one, though not totally absorbing due to the age of the recording. The characters of the book were appealing, Lily certainly develops as a person through the summer in which the book takes place. Young readers or listeners are sure to feel close to the 5th grade girl as they get to know the town of Rockaway and the people who live there. The books authenticity deserves a mention as well. Since the author was a young girl herself in 1944, this historical novel comes from a place close to her heart. This serious tale of friendship in a tremulous time can easily be used in today’s classroom. In the author’s note, Giff states, “…friendship, in the secret world of childhood, added comfort and joy and was the very texture of my life.” This comes through the entirety of the book, even in moments where Lily and Albert fight, their friendship is “the very texture” of the novel.
Newbery Honor 1998
ALSC Notable Children’s Books 1998


“The friendship story is beautifully drawn: both Lily and Albert are wary, reluctant, and needy; they quarrel as much as they bond, and in the end, they help each other to be brave.” – Contributor, Booklist on February 1, 1997

“Closely observed, quickly paced and warmly told, this has all the ingredients that best reward readers.” – Contributor, Publishers Weekly on January 21, 1997

“Despite convenient plot twists to reach a happy ending, Giff’s well-drawn, believable characters and vivid prose style make this an excellent choice.” – Renee Steinberg, School Library Journal on February 1997

Gather with other books about World War II written from the perspective of children, like:

  • Boyne, John The Boy in the Striped Pajamas: A Fable ISBN 9780385751896
  • Dallas, Sandra Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky ISBN 9781585369072
  • Iturbe, Antonio, and Lilit Z. Thwaites The Librarian of Auschwitz ISBN  9781250217677

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