Holiday House, 2006
A Bank Street Book of the Year, 2007
A Kansas Notable Book, 2007
To find this book, go to your public or school library, to IndieBound.org
for an independent bookstore near you, or you can order the book from
What's it About?
Shanghai Shadows is the gripping story of Ilse and Erich, an Austrian brother and sister
duo who survive World War II in Shanghai, China. Life is incredibly different for them way on
the other side of the world, but not awful. Then the U.S. comes into the War, and conditions
worsen with a blockade that prevents necessities like food, medicine, and beloved American movies
from coming into China. But Ilse and Erich do not give in to the bone-chilling cold and
blistering heat of Shanghai, nor to the hardships and starvation of a city under Japanese
occupation. Instead, they plunge into the underground spy network and are soon steeped in
intrigue and danger around every bend. And then a strange and shocking development in their
family changes everything. Everything.
Reviews and Comments
"For suspense and surprises, twists and turns, no one invents plots like Lois Ruby! Shanghai Shadows covers six years in the life of Ilse Shpann, her brother, Erich, and their parents - six years as "stateless refugees" in Shanghai, to which they have fled from Nazi-occupied Vienna. Amidst intensely realistic evocations of the sights, sounds, smells, and diverse population of the city, Ilse matures from a willful child to a courageous, self-sacrificing (but still willful) young woman. Her acerbic sense of humor and love of adventure sustain her as the conditions of life for Jews and everyone else go from bad to worse. Ilse and Erich both work for REACT, a resistance group; their father, an unemployed violinist, becomes apathetic; their proper mother is the iron will that keeps them together and alive until a secret from Mrs. Shpann's past shatters the family. So eventful a plot is held together by sparkling dialogue and superb characterization, with major and minor characters all inter-acting believably as well as coherently. The grimness of the Shpann's six years in Shanghai never overwhelms the story because it is mitigated by flashes of humor, humanity, and Ilse's indomitable spirit. Ruby is the author of Swindletop and The Moxie Kid, among other books. The talent that was glimpsed in
those reaches fulfillment here, in a historical novel that should not be missed! Highly recommended for grades 6 - 9."
(Linda R. Silver, Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter, September/October, 2006)
"Austrian Ilse Shpann spends her teen years with her family in Japanese-occupied Shanghai alongside numerous other refugees and stateless Jewish citizens. Fortunate to have escaped a Nazi concentration camp, Ilse; her older brother, Erich; and their parents experience a difficult and poverty-stricken five years. Forced to live in filthy, cramped tenementlike quarter, the Shpanns scrounge to find work and scrape together meager sums of money to keep themselves fed and sheltered. Rebellious Erich joins a resistance movement and works underground until he is caught, arrested, and nearly dies of typhus. Mother's hidden American connection/citizenship is uncovered, resulting in her detainment in a Japanese internment "civil assembly center." Ilse soon finds herself alone and, with a depressed and nonworking Father, in charge of maintaining normalcy if not basic survival needs for both. Through descriptive scenes, metaphorical language, and some risky, adventurous episodes, Ruby tells this Asian-oriented Holocaust story in Ilse's first-person voice that is at once sardonic, brave, determined, and hopeful. Minor, yet less-developed characters of a Chinese street urchin and a Japanese "King of the Jews" supervisor contribute to the atmosphere and provide some vivid interaction for Ilse in an Eastern world so vastly different from her own European existence. A less-known side of Holocaust history."
(Rita Soltan, Youth Services Consultant, West Bloomfield, MI)
For More Information
Jews of Shanghai and Their History
The Ghosts of Shanghai
Weisz, Tiberiu. The Covenant and the Mandate of Heaven: An In-Depth Comparative Cultural Study of Judaism and China. iUniverse, 2008.
Journey to Jamestown
The Moxie Kid
The Secret of Laurel Oaks
Soon Be Free
Steal Away Home
Strike! Mother Jones...
More Out-Of-Print Books