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Lily's Crossing
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Lily's Crossing

Written by Patricia Reilly GiffAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Patricia Reilly Giff
| Yearling | Trade Paperback | January 1999 | $6.99 | 978-0-440-41453-7 (0-440-41453-9)
Also available as an unabridged audiobook download and an eBook.
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Lily's Crossing was about my childhood. I was inspired to write that because for years, I thought about my childhood during the Second World War, in Rockaway, New York, which I loved. We didn't sleep in Rockaway, we didn't have a cabin there, but we went there almost every day in the summertime. I loved the water. I was clumsy out of the water, but in the water, I could swim. I was good around boats, so I always felt good about it. So I thought one day that I would write Lily, and it took me about four years to finally do it.

The book is fiction, but it's based on so much that I did do. I am Lily; I am the grandmother. The bakery really existed, but it was in St. Albans, where I grew up. And Albert is a composite of many boys in my life when I was growing up.

Certainly, we went to the bakery alone--and during the war, when the baker couldn't get eggs or sugar, the offerings were pretty slim in the bakery. There were signs up, like


Lily learns that true friendship is a treasure that crosses cultural boundaries, in this award-winning novel set during World War II on the home front.

Lily Mollahan can't wait to get to Rockaway, the coastal town where she and her father and grandmother spend each summer. Little does she know that the summer of 1944 will be marked by change. Her father goes to war; her best friend, Margaret, moves to Detroit; and she meets Albert, a Hungarian refugee.

As Lily and Albert become friends, they begin sharing their fears, their secrets, and their wishes. More than anything, Lily wants her father home safely, and Albert wishes to be reunited with his sister, Ruth. Through her friendship with Albert, Lily starts to see life differently and pledges to stop her worst habit--lying.


"I always start each day by writing. That's like breathing to me," says Patricia Reilly Giff. In fact, this best-selling author admits she knew she "wanted to write from the first time I picked up a book and read. I thought it must be the most marvelous thing to make people dance across the pages."

Reading and writing have always been an important part of Giff's life. As a child, her favorite books included Little Women, The Secret Garden, the Black Stallion books, the Sue Barton books, and the Nancy Drew series. Giff loved reading so much that while they were growing up, her sister had to grab books out of her hands to get Giff to pay attention to her; later, Giff's three children often found themselves doing the same thing. As a reading teacher for twenty years, the educational consultant for Dell Yearling and Young Yearling books, an advisor and instructor to aspiring writers, and the author of more than 60 books for children, Giff has spent her entire life surrounded by books.


Lily's Crossing is a story of friendship that will appeal to young readers for many reasons. Because it is set during World War II in the United States, students can grasp a full understanding of how the war affected people on the home front. It asks them to think about the meaning of family, dealing with guilt, separation and loss, the consequences of dishonesty, and the rewards of honesty.

The powerful themes, endearing characters, and the flavor of the 1940s setting make this book an ideal choice for read-aloud or a class novel study. In addition, this guide offers activities for using the novel to connect language arts, social studies, science, drama, and art.

Pre-Reading Activity

Lily's Crossing is set in 1944 just after D-Day. In 1994, the United States celebrated the 50th anniversary of D-Day. Send students to the library to find articles in news magazines about this celebration. Ask them to share with the class any unusual facts or moving stories that they uncover.

Thematic Connections

Ask students to describe Lily and Margaret's friendship. How is Lily's friendship with Albert different? Why does Lily say that he is the best friend she ever had? Ask students to write a letter Lily might write to Poppy describing her new friend, Albert. At the end of the novel, Albert and Ruth are reunited, and Lily gets to meet Ruth. What do you think Albert has told Ruth about Lily?

Throughout the book, Lily makes a list of her problems and solutions to the problems. One of her worst problems is lying. She also has a vivid imagination. Discuss the difference between lying and imagining. Why does Lily continue to lie when she knows she's being dishonest? Have students list all the lies that Lily tells. How does one lie lead to another? In what other ways is Lily dishonest? At what point in the novel does she finally overcome her habit of lying?

Both Lily and Albert have lost parents, but they still have the love of a family. Ask students to describe Lily's family. What is her relationship with Poppy? What is Gram's role in the family? How does Lily's relationship with Gram change at the end of the novel? How does Albert gain a sense of family from Mr. and Mrs. Orban?

Lily feels guilty because she didn't tell her father good-bye. Albert feels guilty because he didn't tell Ruth good-bye. How does each of them deal with the guilt? Lily writes an


Ask students to search for words in the novel such as convoy (76) that specifically pertain to the war. Then, ask them to locate words such as swell (116) and jetty (86) that refer to the coastal setting of the book. Have the class discuss the meaning of each word located.


A 1998 Newbery Honor Book

An ALA Notable Children's Book

A Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book


* "Details. . .are woven with great effect into a realistic story..." -- Starred, The Horn Book

"With Ms. Giff's usual easygoing language and swift, short paragraphs, the impact of the war on an American child is brilliantly told." -- The New York Times Book Review

"Giff's well-drawn, believable characters and vivid prose style make this an excellent choice." -- School Library Journal

"[A] fine piece of historical fiction. . .fully satisfying." -- The Bulletin

"With wry comedy and intense feeling. . .Giff gets across a strong sense of what it was like on the home front during World War II. . .The friendship story is beautifully drawn. . ." -- Booklist

"[A] deftly told story." -- Kirkus Reviews

"Exceptional characterizations and a robust story line. . .Closely observed, quickly paced and warmly told, this has all the ingredients and best reward readers." -- Publishers Weekly

"Both evocative and provocative, this gentle novel presents the ripples of world war in a child-sized way." -- The San Francisco Examiner-Chronicle


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