This blog is a continuation of a class assignment for the TWU course 5603, Literature for Children and Young Adults. Subsequent entries are for TWU course 5653, Multicultural Literature for Children and Young Adults. The new entries are for TWU course 5663, Poetry for Children and Young Adults.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lily's Crossing

Lily’s Crossing
By Patricia Reilly Giff

cover image retrieved from

Giff, Patricia Reilly. 1999. LILY’S CROSSING. Bantam Doubleday Dell. New York. ISBN-13: 978-0440414537.

Plot Summary
The realities of a war half a world away come crashing home for Lily when her father is drafted to serve as an Army engineer during World War II. Lily spends her summer at the family’s oceanfront cottage with her grandmother, as usual, but this summer suffers separation from her beloved Poppy, and the relocation of her best friend Margaret, whose father moves to work in an ammunitions plant. An unexpected friendship with a young Hungarian war refugee permits Lily to face fears and reality, while waiting with the rest of the world for the war to end. 

Critical Analysis
            The bonds of true friendship, the love of a family, and the fears of a world at war are intermingled practically in this touching personal account of the devastation of World War II. Ms. Giff introduces the reader to characters so real they seem to live just down the street. She effortlessly draws the reader in to care about them right away, revealing small but poignant details of their past. Lily’s life as she knows it is once again pulled out from under her, sending the protagonist and reader reeling. The strong, realistically flawed characters react to the imposition of war just as any person would, with anger, resentment, fear, and dread.
This novel provides details of the era that would be nostalgic to older readers, informative to younger readers. Unexpected details, such as the contents of the display window of the Once and Again store, blend with the expected, such as a neighbor’s Victory Garden. Lily’s Gran worries about her, like any grandmother would, but permits Lily to run free throughout the day, a throwback to the time period when kids were often left to run and play, without cares about their safety. This glimpse into the past is well constructed, informative and moving at the same time.  Readers are treated to a history lesson, without even realizing it. Conversations clue the reader in to the morals and attitudes of the day, authenticating this novel as realistic historical fiction. The idyllic ocean community setting is a perfect balance to the turmoil of the world. Lily, and her touching story, are a treat for readers looking for historical accuracy or simply a great read.

Review Excerpts
"Details...are woven with great effect into a realistic story."
--The Horn Book Magazine, starred

"Exceptional characterizations and a robust story line...this has all the ingredients that best reward readers."
--Publishers Weekly

"Brilliantly told."
--The New York Times Book Review

"With wry comedy and intense feeling...Giff gets across a strong sense of what it was like on the home front during World War II...The friendship story is beautifully drawn."

Awards and Honors
1998 Newbery Honor Book
ALA Notable Book
Boston Globe--Horn Book Honor Book

  • ·      Friendships are key to Lily’s Crossing. Compare and contrast Lily’s friendship with Margaret to her new friendship with Albert. Create a picture Venn diagram by selecting an object that represents each of these friends and list elements of the friendship on the item (ex.: a candy wrapper to represent her friendship with Margaret and the rowboat to represent her friendship with Albert.) In the middle of the page, select an object that represents Lily and/or her friendship with both characters (possibly beach.) List at least 4 descriptions of the friendships on each object.
  • ·      Use the theme of friendship to discuss the Allied and Axis Powers of WWII. What bonds held these alliances together? Are friendships based on need good or bad? What does it take to be a good friend, personally and on a larger scale, like for a country? Is it ever ok to form a friendship of necessity?
  • ·      Examine the causes and effects of WWII. Create a flow chart that shows major events, and resulting events. Then, personalize the lesson by creating a flow chart that shows major events from Lily’s Crossing and resulting events. Have students reflect on positive, negative, and unintended outcomes. Assign students to write a 3 paragraph reflection on a positive and a negative unintended outcome from a personal event. In the final paragraph, ask students to summarize how unintended outcomes can sometimes be better than what was originally  planned.
  • ·      Map the countries that participated in WWII, color-coding countries that were aligned with each the Allied and the Axis Powers. Use a different color for countries that switched allegiance during the War. Research to find out why some countries made that switch.
  • ·      Visit Patricia Reilly Giff’s webpage on Random House’s website at

Other books by Patricia Reilly Giff:

Big Whopper
Wild Girl
Water Street
Willow Run
All the Way Home
Fourth-Grade Celebrity
The Gift of the Pirate Queen
A House of Tailors
Maggie’s Door
Nory Ryan’s Song
Pictures of Hollis Woods
Polk Street School Books:
All About Stacy
B-E-S-T Friends
The Beast and the Halloween Horror
The Beast in Ms. Rooney’s Room
The Candy Corn Contest
The Case of the Cool Itch Kid
December Secrets
Emily Arrow Promises to Do Better This Year
Fancy Feet
Fish Face
Garbage Juice for Breakfast
In the Dinosaur’s Paw
Lazy Lions, Lucky Lambs
Look Out, Washington, D.C.!
Monster Rabbit Runs Amuck!
New Stop, New York City!
Pickle Puss
Purple Climbing Days
Say “Cheese”
Snaggle Doodles
Spectacular Stone Soup
Sunny-Side Up
The Valentine Star
Watch Out! Man-Eating Snake

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