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Vancy Kasper
Toronto, Stoddart, 1991. 218pp, paper, $9.95
ISBN 0-7737-5452-0. CIP

Grades 7 and up/Ages 12 and up

Reviewed by Floyd Spacklin

Volume 20 Number 3
1992 May

Escape to Freedom is a gripping tale of two Austrian children, Elsbeth and Emil Hoffer, and their Czechoslovakian friend, Jaroslav Gindrich. Theirs is a story of starvation, imprisonment and death shortly after World War II. Their "escape to freedom" takes them across the border from Czechoslovakia, where the Communists have just taken control, to West Germany, where there is only a slim chance of being reunited with either of their parents and finding their way to Canada, the land of freedom.

For Vancy Kasper, who has also written Always Ask for a Transfer (Alberta Education, 1985) and Street of Three Directions, Escape to Freedom reflects a story experienced by her husband, who likewise struggled through trying times in post-war Europe. (Casper's plot is a very realistic one that "pulls no punches." Lice, starvation, the fear of dying, and death itself are real problems for Elsbeth, Emil and Jaroslav.

Kasper's effective treatment of conflict and suspense are highlighted when the children must press their bodies onto railroad tracks as a train passes right over them. Vivid descriptions such as "clouds that looked like sheep skittering across the brisk September horizon" are at every turn. In order to solve conflict for her characters, Kasper often creates unique and interesting solutions, like the one in which Elsbeth accompanies Emil and Jaroslav onto the train.

Readers are never in doubt about the success of the group's "escape to freedom" but are left in awe about how it was possible. As the story nears its conclusion, however, there are perhaps too many coincidences that destroy the credibility which has been building throughout.

Overall, a worthwhile read.

Floyd Spacklin, G.C. Rowe Junior High School, Corner Brook, Nfld.

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