When the World Was Ours

Liz Kessler

Inspired by true events this powerful, and at times harrowing, tale concerns three young children whose closely intertwined lives take three very different paths as WW2 unfolds across Europe. 

Leo and Elsa flee Vienna as Max, once their closest friend, is drawn into the Hitler Youth. The different narrative stance of each chapter allows the reader to experience different reactions to war and I found the explanations of the segregation of the Jews, as well as the descriptions of the camps, to be sensitively portrayed given the age of the intended readership.

Despite its unflinching approach to the horrors of war, this is a book full of warmth and friendship. The memories which will linger are as much the children’s reactions to the ride on the Viennese Ferris Wheel, as to the later atrocities they witness.

The ending has a very distressing scene but it is not gratuitous: war is brutal, death is a part of it and children can’t always be protected from it. Recommended for readers in KS3.

Published by Simon & Schuster Children’s UK

Reviewed by Rachel Bolton