It’s the summer of 1944, and 10 year old Lily Mollahan cannot wait to leave Queens and head to Rockaway Beach with her Poppy and her Gram. She looks forward to spending the summer fishing, swimming, and going to the movies with her best friend Margaret as she has always done. However, with World War II in progress, the summer is not going to be what Lily hopes. Margaret’s father gets a job building bombs for the United States, and her family moves to Michigan. Lily’s beloved Poppy is sent somewhere unknown with the U.S. Army, and Lily is left all alone with old Gram.
Down the street, a young boy named Albert moves in with his aunt and uncle, the Orbans. Albert is strange and quiet, and although Lily is curious about him, she wants nothing to do with him at first. Lily learns that Albert is a refugee from Hungary who has been separated from his family, including his little Ruth, who had to stay behind in German occupied France because she was sick with the measles. Albert came to New York to stay safe from the Nazis and war.
After saving a little kitten’s life together, Lily and Albert begin to form a close friendship and spend a lot of time together. However, Lily finds herself lying to Albert about her life and her family, and she doesn’t know why. Lily tells Albert that she plans on swimming out to one of the troop ships, and she is going to Europe to find her father; Albert wants to come so he can look for Ruth. Even after Lily tells Albert that she was lying about going to Europe, Albert still tries to row a small boat out to one of the troop ships and gets hit by a huge wave, causing him to fall out of the boat. Thankfully Lily had followed Albert, and was able to pull him to safety upon her boat. The two are comforted by Gram upon their return, and realize how lucky they were that no one got hurt or drowned.
When summer ends, Lily and her Gram return home, and Albert goes to Canada to be with other family. Months later, Poppy returns home safely, and tells Lily that he received her letter about Ruth, and that he found her safe and well. As the school year passes, Lily thinks of Margaret and Albert, and wonders if she will ever see them again. She gets her answer one warm summer morning, back at Rockaway Beach, when she sees Albert and Ruth at the Orbans’ house. Reunited with a dear friend and her family, Lily is overjoyed and thankful.
Set during a very difficult time in U.S. history, Lily’s Crossing helps young people understand the massive effects that World War II had on not only the American people, but people all over the world. It is a story about friendship, trust, and growth, and will appeal to young readers across all ages. It is an excellent novel to teach as a read aloud, or as a small group or whole class literature study.