WATTS, Irene N.

Author Tags: Jewish, Kidlit & Young Adult

Born in Berlin, Germany in 1931, Irene Watts is a co-founder of the Vancouver International Children's Festival.

She came to Alberta from the U.K. in 1968, arrived in B.C. in 1976 and has since published numerous drama-related titles for children starting with A Chain of Words, a collection of six Japanese folktales in 1978. In the 1980s she released several titles with the Playwrights' Union, including an adaptation of Robert Munsch's stories. Other titles are The Great Detective Party, Just a Minute and Making Stories. A Telling Time recalls the Biblical story of Purim from the Book of Esther. When the Bough Breaks and Flower are about 'Home Children' who were sent from Britain to Canada as either or orphans or as children whose parents could not fully provide for them.

Her anthology Tapesty of Hope, co-edited by Lilian Boraks-Nemetz, includes writing from Jewish Canadian writers such as Ellen Schwartz, Karen Levine, Kathy Kacer, Mordecai Richler and Leonard Cohen. It won the Canadian Jewish Book Award, a Yad Vashem award for Holocaust Studies and was nominated for the BC Book Prize for Young Adult Fiction and for the Canadian Library Association Award for Young Adult Fiction.

Kathryn E. Shoemaker has co-authored Good-Bye Marianne: The Graphic Novel (Tundra $14.99), her new illustrated version of Watts’ poignant story about the Kindertransporte that saved ten thousand Jewish children in Germany prior to the outbreak of World War Two. Watts’ original print version of this story, about an eleven-year-old named Marianne Kohn in 1938, won the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction and Isaac Frischwasser Memorial Award for Young Adult Fiction.

Illustrated by Shoemaker and authored by Watts, No Pets Allowed (Tradewind, 2010) is about a boy who moves to Vancouver from the country with his mom, and smuggles his dog Lucky into his new apartment building. When Lucky scares off a burglar, other tenants argue the country dog should be allowed to stay.

No Moon is a young adult novel about a servant aboard the doomed Titanic.

Irene N. Watts’s Touched by Fire (Tundra 2013) recalls the terrible Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City in 1911, during which 146 garment workers lost their lives due to fire, smoke inhalation or jumping from the building in which the doors had been locked by the employers. Watts follows one family’s flight from the pogroms of Russia, to Berlin, onto steerage passage to Ellis Island, then onto New York’s Lower East Side, through the eyes of teenager Miriam who gratefully lands a job as a cuff setter at the factory.

Also in 2013, to mark the 75th anniversary of the Kindertransport exodus that enabled Jewish children to leave Nazi Germany, Berlin-born Irene N. Watts re-released her three volumes of juvenile fiction on the subject, made available for an omnibus edition entitled Escape from Berlin (Tundra 2013). It included Goodbye Marianne, Remember Me and Finding Sophie.

Watts, who has won three Canadian Jewish Book Awards, lives in White Rock and conducts drama workshops for teachers and students.


"Seeking Refuge" (Tradewind 2016) $18.95 9781926890029
"Escape from Berlin" (Tundra 2013) $19.99 978-1-77049-611-8
"Touched by Fire" (Tundra 2013) $19.99 978-1-77049-524-1
"No Moon" (Tundra Books 2012) 9780-88776-971-9
"No Pets Allowed" (Tradewind, 2010) 978-1-896580-94-4 $8.95
"When the Bough Breaks" (Tundra Books 2007) $12.99 978-0-88776-821-7
"Flower" (Tundra Books, 2005)
"A Telling Time" (Tradewind, 2004). Illustrated by Katherine E. Shoemaker.
"Finding Sophie", Tundra Books, 2002.
"One for Day/One for Night", Tundra Books, 2002. Based on the stories by George MacDonald. Illustrated by Mark Lang.
"Solo, We’ll Be Fine”, Two for the Show, Playwrights Canada Press, 1999.
"Good-Bye Marianne", Tundra Books, McClelland & Stewart Young Readers / Tundra 2008 978-0-88776-830-9
"Good-bye Marianne: A Story of Growing Up in Nazi Germany", Tundra Books, 1998
"The Fish Princess", Tundra Books.
"The Magic Sieve", Within My Reach, Celebrate Reading, Toronto: Harper Collins, 1993.
"Making Stories", PPL, 1992.
"Great Theme Parties For Children". USA: Stirling, 1992.
"The Great Detective Party", PPL, 1989; Stirling USA; Orient Paperworks, Delhi, India.
"A Chain of Words", Talonbooks, 1978.


"Tapestry of Hope", Tundra Books, 2003.
"Holocaust Writing for Young People", editor with Lillian Boraks Nemetz, Floris Books, U.K.

[BCBW 2016] "Kidlit" "Jewish"

Good-bye Marianne (Tundra $8.99)

It's cold in Berlin. The signs that Marianne Kohn is unwelcome are everywhere -- literally.

ARYANS ONLY says a sign on a shoe repair shop. KEEP OUR STREETS JEW FREE declares a notice on a boarded-up clothing store. AS OF TODAY, NOVEMBER 15, 1938, JEWISH STUDENTS ARE PROHIBITED FROM ATTENDING GERMAN SCHOOLS announces a billboard.

With her father gone into hiding, 11-year-old Marianne keeps hoping her situation will improve in Good-bye Marianne (Tundra $8.99), Irene N. Watts' autobiographical novel about growing up in Nazi Germany. Like her heroine, Watts once lived at Richard Wagnerstrasse 3, Charlottenburg, Berlin until she went to England -- at age seven-and-one-half -- on the Kindertransporte trains that evacuated approximately 10,000 Jewish children from continental Europe prior to the outbreak of war in September, 1939.

Subject to cruel taunts, hate propaganda and her mother's warnings not to be noticed, Marianne must eventually travel without her mother, via Holland, to arrive at Parkstone Quay, Harwich, England aboard De Praag, in December of 1938.
Irene Watts emigrated from England to Alberta in 1968. Since coming to B.C. in 1976 she has published nine other books and gives workshops as a storyteller in schools.

Other subject-related books by B.C. authors include Fraidie Martz' non-fictional Open Your Hearts (Vehicule 1997), about 1,123 Jewish war orphans who came to Canada, and Lillian Boraks-Nemetz' autobiographical novel The Old Brown Suitcase (Ben-Simon 1994) based on her survival in the Warsaw Ghetto and her move to Canada to start a new life.

[BCBW 1998]

No Pets Allowed by Irene Watts & Kathryn E. Shoemaker (Tradewind $8.95)

from Louise Donnelly

When matthew moves to the city he has to leave his dog Lucky behind. He and his mom now live in a Vancouver apartment, an apartment with a lot of rules, sternly enforced by Mr. Leo, the building manager.

In Irene Watts’ No Pets Allowed, with illustrations by Kathryn E. Shoemaker, Fred, who’s “a million times better than a fish,” has a very nice leash, pulls the covers off the bed and, when Mr. Leo’s not around, wrestles with Matthew on the front lawn.

The only glitch is that Fred’s an invisible dog. That small detail doesn’t stop Matthew and Fred from putting the run on a brick-wielding, window-smashing car thief. And when the apartment’s residents sign a petition demanding a guard dog to prevent further vandalism, Matthew ends up with not one, but two dogs—Lucky and Fred.

Berlin-born Irene Watts, who’s made her home in B.C. for the past twenty years, arrived in Great Britain as a child via Kindertransport, the rescue movement that from 1938 to the start of World War II moved 10,000 children (none of them accompanied by parents) out of Nazi Germany, Austria, Poland and Czechoslovakia.

In 2001, Watts was honored with a Playwrights’ Union of Canada lifetime membership for her outstanding contribution to Canadian drama and theatre. 978-1-896580-9-44

[BCBW 2011]

Seeking Refuge (Tradewind $18.95)
Article (2016)

from BCBW (Winter 2016)
Born in berlin in 1931, irene Watts was brought to Great Britain as a child via Kindertransport. It was a rescue movement that moved 10,000 mainly Jewish children out of Nazi Germany, Austria, Poland and Czechoslovakia, starting in 1938. None were accompanied by their parents.
Watts immigrated to Alberta in 1968. Thirty years later her story Good-Bye Marianne, about an eleven-year-old named Marianne Kohn who leaves Germany in 1938, won the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction.

Ten years after that, illustrator Kathryn E. Shoemaker co-authored Good-Bye Marianne: The Graphic Novel.

Now Watts and Shoemaker have teamed up for a graphic novel, Seeking Refuge (Tradewind $18.95), that continues Marianne’s story, depicting her estrangement in Canada as a refugee who is missing her family and needing to learn English.