Summary: When the Germans turn their sights toward England during World War II, the government decides that sending the nation’s children away to the safety of other countries is the best course of action. One by one, Ken, Bess, Louis, Beth, Sonia, and other children and teens all make their way to the City of Benares, a ship that is going to take them across the Atlantic Ocean to a new life in Canada. A large convoy of ships escorting the City of Benares leads the Germans to believe the ship itself is of military importance, and a German U-Boat guns it down. Suddenly the children that were expecting an adventure are fighting for their lives in the coldness of the ocean, and most aren’t going to survive.
Number of Pages: 296
Age Range: 13-16
Review: With a large cast of characters, September 17 examines the tragic sinking of a ship with child passengers during World War II from a variety of perspectives. Though the results are grim, Amanda West Lewis’ writing highlights the optimistic nature of children, and their ability to adapt and survive. It was the survival aspect kept me turning the pages, and I was surprised by the ending.
I love the Memorable Quotes I gleaned from September 17 because they truly capture the essence of the impact of a historical event such as this one. I appreciated her exploration of the impact of sending away the youth of a nation only to have it end in tragedy, and, in a way, it reminded me of P.D. James’ Children of Men. Lewis’ point is the same, children are hope and our future, and their loss is felt by all.
Lewis’ book opened my eyes to impacts of World War II I hadn’t even considered. As an adventure story, it works for younger teen readers, but its historical significance makes it a good read for older teens as well.
“We need to decide that we will not go to war, whenever reason is conjured up by the politicians or the media, because war in our time is always indiscriminate, a war against innocents, a war against children.” – Howard Zinn, Historian and Author, from The Progressive, November 2001 in September 17 by Amanda West Lewis, page 6
“‘They say that since all of the children have gone, London is now a city without heart. Perhaps England will become a whole country without a heart, without a future.'” – Miss Grierson from September 17 by Amanda West Lewis, page 128
“Bess took a few deep breaths before she trusted herself to speak. She had dreamed of going home, dreamed of the safety of her own bed. All of that time on the overturned lifeboat, she had pictured her mother and father, pictured her house, pictured life before the war. But she realized now there was no way of going back to the time before the war. Life would never be the same.” – Bess from September 17 by Amanda West Lewis, page 243