Nicky & Vera: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued

by Peter Sís (Author)

Nicky & Vera: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

In December 1938, a young Englishman canceled a ski vacation and went instead to Prague to help the hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Nazis who were crowded into the city. Setting up a makeshift headquarters in his hotel room, Nicholas Winton took names and photographs from parents desperate to get their children out of danger. He raised money, found foster families in England, arranged travel and visas, and, when necessary, bribed officials and forged documents. In the frantic spring and summer of 1939, as the Nazi shadow fell over Europe, he organized the transportation of almost 700 children to safety.

Then, when the war began and no more children could be rescued, he put away his records and told no one. It was only fifty years later that a chance discovery and a famous television appearance brought Winton's actions to light.

Peter Sís weaves Winton's experiences and the story of one of the children he saved, Vera Gissing. Nicky & Vera is a tale of decency, action, and courage told in luminous, poetic images by an internationally renowned artist.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

Though Nicholas Winton saved hundreds of children during the Holocaust, his heroism didn't come to light until 1988, when his wife found records of the train journeys he had arranged to carry Czech children from Prague to London. In this quiet, deeply considered picture book biography, Caldecott Honoree Sís weaves Winton's story together with that of Vera Gissing, one of the children he saved, conveying the hard truths of the Holocaust in language that younger readers can take in. In spreads of pale blue, Sís portrays Winton's arrival in Prague and his realization that he could help children escape: "England would allow refugees under seventeen to come--if families could be found to take care of them." The young stockbroker works feverishly to arrange placements and train tickets. Meanwhile, Gissing's country childhood is recreated with folk-style maps, small cutaways, and dreamlike images; in one spread, her parents hover in mid-air, like figures in a Chagall painting. Winton's humility is the thread that runs through the story--"I did not face any danger... I only saw what needed to be done," he said--and the account of Gissing's life illuminates what was at stake. An author's note includes further details. Ages 6-8. (Jan.)

Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Gr 2-5--Sís tells the story of Nicholas Winton (1909-2015), a British citizen who helped send Czech children to England just before World War II officially broke out. In December 1938, Winton canceled a planned ski trip and joined a friend in Prague who was aiding refugees in the Sudetenland. Working from his hotel room, Winton created lists of children, took photographs, and created train schedules. He soon returned to London to work on securing visas and travel arrangements, find families to welcome the children, and handle the paperwork and bureaucracy. Vera, a young Jewish girl who was a citizen of Czechoslovakia, was one of the 669 children who were successfully brought to Great Britain through Winton's efforts. She lost all but one aunt in the war and its aftermath. Many years after World War II, Vera and some of the other children Winton helped save paid tribute to him on a television show called That's Life. Sís's illustrations combine the literal with the symbolic. Using everything from expansive spreads to miniature panels, he captures different elements from the lives of those involved. The text and the artwork demonstrate the power of one courageous individual who was determined to make a difference. VERDICT A great purchase for libraries where Sís's work is enjoyed.--Heidi Grange, Summit Elem. Sch., Smithfield, UT

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Captivating.... Sís takes great care, in this Holocaust tale about the horrific consequences of demonizing people who are different, to highlight the things we have in common.— "New York Times Book Review"
Peter Sís
Peter Sís is the internationally renowned author and/or illustrator of many books for children. He received Caldecott Honors for Starry Messenger, Tibet Through the Red Box, and Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain. He is the recipient of the 2012 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration and the 2015 Society of Illustrators Lifetime Achievement Award, and has also been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. He has lived in and around New York City since 1984.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Norton Young Readers
Publication date
January 20, 2021
BISAC categories
JNF053240 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Social Topics | Emigration & Immigration
JNF053140 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Social Topics | Prejudice & Racism
JNF007020 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Historical
JNF025130 - Juvenile Nonfiction | History | Military & Wars
JNF025090 - Juvenile Nonfiction | History | Holocaust
Library of Congress categories
World War, 1939-1945
Jewish children in the Holocaust
Righteous Gentiles in the Holocaust
Winton, Nicholas
Sydney Taylor Book Award
Silver Medal 2022

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