Jacob and the Mandolin Adventure

Written by Anne Dublin
Review by Melissa Warren

Anne Dublin’s novel shares the true story of a group of orphans who immigrated from Mezritsh, Poland, to a farm school in Canada in 1927. She brings to life the people who saved dozens of Jewish children before the Germans decimated their town in World War II.

One of those children is thirteen-year-old Jacob, a kind boy, and a talented musician. He appreciates his life at Mezritsh Children’s Home, but he misses his life with his aunt, uncle, and cousins, who, when they could no longer afford to feed him, made the impossible decision to send him to the orphanage. Although Jacob’s life is marked by extreme poverty and tragedy, it is also filled with kind, caring adults. They do everything in their power to make sure he has a happy life despite the loss of his parents and baby sister in the 1918 pandemic.

When a stranger from America comes to town and invites the older orphans to join him on a journey to Canada, Jacob and 37 of his classmates jump at the chance. They are given three weeks to learn English and prepare to leave behind everything and everyone they have ever known. As they journey to their new home, they share their talents with the world. As members of the Mandolin Orchestra, they hold concerts in train stations along the way to fund their journey.

Dublin’s story captures the awe of the children as they cross the sea and embark on a new life. She skillfully honors the innocence of her characters and young readers while dealing frankly with the antisemitism, poverty, and danger the orphans faced both at home and abroad. I highly recommend it for ages nine and up.