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Teaching The Children of Willesden Lane
Resources to help you teach the book in middle schools and high schools

Chapters 13–19

From the Blitz to Lisa’s Audition

Even as the British prepare for a German invasion, Lisa continues to go to work each day, play her music, and try to stay true to her mother’s wishes. Then comes the Blitz, the almost daily bombings by the Germans of London and other cities. One night, the bombs hit 243 Willesden Lane. The building is so damaged that the children must find temporary placements until repairs can be made. Lisa stays with Mrs. Canfield down the street.

Soon after repairs are made to 243 Willesden Lane and Lisa and the other children move back, Mrs. Cohen approaches Lisa with an idea that will change her life forever. Mrs. Cohen has read in the newspaper about an audition for scholarships to the London Royal Academy of Music, and she suggests that Lisa apply. Lisa agrees, thrilled at the possibility. Yet that very evening, she and the other children hear disturbing news about the fate of their families from a rabbi. A cousin in Mexico also sends Lisa unsettling news about her older sister Rosie and Rosie's fiancé, Leo. According to the cousin, the pair managed to reach Paris, but no one has heard from them since their arrival.

When Lisa discovers that she must pay a small fee in order to audition for the Royal Academy, Mrs. Cohen tries to raise the money. The first person she approaches is Mr. Hardesty of Bloomsbury House. At first, he is reluctant to help, but after secretly listening to Lisa playing a Grieg piano concerto, he pays the entire fee. The next day Lisa travels to the Royal Academy to pick up an application. She also arranges to leave work early so she can practice for a few extra hours. Buoyed by a first romance, the support of her co-workers at the factory, and her friends at Willesden Lane, she not only rehearses the music of Bach, Beethoven, and Chopin but also studies the intricacies of music theory.

The audition kindles Lisa’s competitive spirit. What would her mother or her music teacher in Vienna think if she gave in to nagging doubts about her ability? Her friends rally to her aid. Hans listens as she practices in the cellar where the piano has been moved for safekeeping. He and Aaron drill Lisa in sight-reading skills. Aaron also tutors her in musical fundamentals.

Although that winter is one of the coldest on record, Lisa continues her daily practice sessions in the freezing basement. But her mood changes when she learns that Aaron has been arrested as an enemy alien and is being interned on the Isle of Man. Soon after, Lisa is confined to her bed with a severe case of bronchitis. After awakening from two days of sleep, she learns that the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor and that the Americans have now joined the Allies in the war against Germany.

Synopsis text from the curriculum guide, created by Facing History and Ourselves and the Milken Family Foundation, pgs. 32, 36.

Buildings reduced to rubble by bombs

A street in London after it was bombed
during the Blitz.


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