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Children's Nonfiction Emigration & Immigration

Stars of the Night

The Courageous Children of the Czech Kindertransport

by (author) Caren Stelson

illustrated by Selina Alko

Lerner Publishing Group
Initial publish date
Feb 2023
Emigration & Immigration, Military & Wars, Alternative Family
Recommended Age
7 to 11
Recommended Grade
2 to 5
Recommended Reading age
8 to 9
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2023
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


"A not-to-be-missed, inspirational book about courage, heart, and the necessity of caring for others."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
This powerful story is told from the collective perspective of the children who were rescued from Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II, as Hitler's campaign of hatred toward Jews and political dissidents took hold. The narrative starts in 1938 and follows the children as they journey to foster families in England for the duration of the war, return to Prague afterward in an unsuccessful search for their parents, and eventually connect with Nicholas Winton, a British former stockbroker who was instrumental in bringing them to safety. Winton and the Czech Kindertransport ultimately rescued 669 children from Nazi persecution.
Award-winning author Caren Stelson teams up with acclaimed illustrator Selina Alko to sensitively tell this tale of survival and defiance in the face of tyranny.

About the authors

When author Caren Stelson first heard Sachiko Yasui speak, she knew she needed to share her story with young people. She eventually made five trips to Japan to interview Sachiko in Nagasaki and conduct additional research. Caren's book for middle grade readers, Sachiko: A Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivor's Story, was longlisted for a National Book Award and received a Sibert Honor Award, the Jane Addams Children's Book Award, and the Flora Stieglitz Straus Award. Caren and her husband Kim live in Minneapolis. They have two adult children and one grandson, Reid, who, like the readers of A Bowl Full of Peace, will be our next generation of peacemakers.

Caren Stelson's profile page

Selina Alko spends her days melding words and mixed-media art to convey stories of hope and inspiration—as well as an alternative viewpoint. Her books include The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage, Can I Touch Your Hair?, Daddy Christmas & Hanukkah Mama, and I is for Immigrants, which was selected a 2022 Best Children's Book of the Year by Bank Street Books. Selina lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Selina Alko's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"This book tells my father's story through the eyes of the children he helped to save from the Holocaust. My father, an ordinary man, put together a small team and together they saved 669 children. His story is a reminder of the huge difference any one of us can make in the lives of others. Our world depends on it. This tragic episode in our history is being repeated now in many parts of the world. Governments alone seem unable to solve these problems—it is down to people like him, people like us, to make the change we want to see." —Nick Winton, son of Sir Nicholas Winton

Other Print

"While there's no shortage of Holocaust stories, Stelson has written a moving and uplifting account of a humanitarian effort that ultimately saved 669 Jewish Czech children. The Kindertransport took children from their hometown of Prague to England, where they lived with foster families while war broke out at home and most of their families were killed. The remarkable tale is told through a first-person plural that replicates the children's innocent voices and experiences; Alko's rich acrylic and collage illustrations help bring the heartbreaking historical event to life and render it accessible to a young audience. The story ends 50 years later, when the mystery of who helped the children, now grown, is revealed; Nicholas Winton, a British Jew and former banker, arranged all of it. 'By saving us as children, Nicholas Winton saved our children, our grandchildren, and all their children to come.' The weight of his inspiring work is inestimable. Back matter includes further information about the Kindertransport and Yad Vashem's Children's Memorial, a time line, source notes, author's note, illustrator's note, bibliography, and further reading. VERDICT A necessary and inspirational book about a little-known light amid a dark period of history, this book should find a home in all libraries."—starred, School Library Journal


"Stelson (A Bowl Full of Peace) employs a communal we to narrate this story of 669 primarily Jewish children of the Czech Kindertransport rescued by British humanitarian Nicholas Winton (1909–2015). The 1938 Prague–set opening evokes sensory memories of comfortable childhoods: a picnic, sweet honey cake, ice-skating, hot cocoa. But as refugees arrive and Nazi forces approach, parents start making 'arrangements' with an unnamed man. Soon, the children are told that they're 'taking a holiday to England,' with heartrending goodbyes preceding the children's travels to English foster homes. Five decades later, a scrapbook is unearthed, revealing Winton as the man whose planning saved not only them, but also 'our children, our grandchildren, and all their children to come.' Impressionistic acrylic, collage, and pencil art by Alko (I Is for Immigrants) is embellished throughout with sparkling stars and round yellow orbs—reminders of 'the stars of the night and the sun of the day' that, the children's parents' say, are 'the messenger of our thoughts and love,' as well as, perhaps, of Winton's indomitable spirit. An afterword provides extensive historical detail."—Publishers Weekly


"An unlikely hero saved the lives of hundreds of children during the Holocaust.
Stelson describes how Jewish Czech children were saved via the Kindertransport during World War II. Beginning in 1938, they were taken via train from their hometown, Prague, to England, where they lived with foster families for several years while war raged in continental Europe. After the war, they returned home to learn most of their parents had perished. Many years later, they also discovered, for the first time, the identity of the self-effacing man who had literally set the wheels in motion by organizing the transports and securing necessary documents, allowing them—a total of 669 children—to leave their war-ravaged country and Nazi brutality behind so that they might live. His name? Nicholas 'Nicky' Winton, an Englishman working in Prague in the late '30s and one of many whose contributions made the Kindertransport possible. Decades later, he was honored by the Czech president and knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to humanity. This searing account is all the more heart-rending because it is collectively narrated by the young people saved by Winton, delivered in the innocent, matter-of-fact voice of a child. The illustrations, rendered in acrylic, colored pencil, and collage, are powerfully poignant and have childlike appeal, capturing readers' sympathetic attention. A backmatter feature, 'Winton's Children,' notes that five depicted children represent actual young people saved by Winton, who is himself portrayed. (This book was reviewed digitally.)
A not-to-be-missed, inspirational book about courage, heart, and the necessity of caring for others."—starred, Kirkus Reviews


"In a collective voice that represents the 669 Czech children rescued from the Nazis by a businessman whose identity remained unknown for 50 years, Stelson describes rising tides of anti-Semitism, tearful partings, scary journeys by train and boat, meetings with British foster families, and then a return to Prague at war's end to search out the scanty remnants of families and, long after, to learn who had organized the escape. Five young figures, identified by the colors of their clothes, appear in each of Alko's grave, gray scenes and correspond to actual refugees who are named and profiled in back matter that also includes a time line and personal notes from the author and illustrator, and leads to further information about the broader Kindertransport movement. Refugee stories won't be unfamiliar even to younger children these days—but this one might be, especially as most other accounts of this lesser-known piece of history are aimed at older readers."—Booklist


"In this quiet but immediate nonfiction picture book, Stelson (A Bowl Full of Peace, rev. 7/20) tells the story of the 669 children evacuated via the Kindertransport, with the help of Nicholas Winton, from Czechoslovakia in the late 1930s to escape the Nazis. The first-person-plural narration mainly sticks to the collective point of view of the children, letting readers experience their bewilderment first at the early signs of war and persecution and then at the unexplained 'holiday to England' without their parents; occasional 'none of us knew' asides hint at the help Winton was providing behind the scenes. As time passes and the war ends, readers find out along with the narrators that most of their parents have perished during the Holocaust, and finally learn Winton's identity. The in-the-moment text combines with emotional acrylic, colored-pencil, and collage illustrations in Alko's (I Is for Immigrants, rev. 9/21) signature style to create a dreamlike atmosphere. Extensive back matter provides further context; a note explains that five of the children in the illustrations represent specific individuals among 'Winton's children,' and a quote from the mother of one of them, Vera Gissing, inspires the titular star motif. Pair with Sís's Nicky & Vera: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued (rev. 5/21)."—The Horn Book Magazine


Other titles by Selina Alko