Historical Fiction -- Ellis Island and Immigration


New York City has to be one of the greatest places in America, if not the world. Luckily for us, many authors have chronicled The Big Apple's antics in a way just right for kids.

Here are some of the books available. This is not yet a complete list, but I'm adding books to the list daily. If you wish to purchase any of these books, click on either the title or the book cover to be directed to Amazon.com. As a warning, I have put up pictures of the book covers to give you somewhat an idea of the style of each book (I know, I know. "Don't judge a book by its cover") so the pages may load slowly, depending on the speed of your internet connection.

The categories below are sorted by approximate age group and topical categories. Feel free to browse around. The same links are located on the left side of your screen. To return back to this page, simply click on the "Welcome" link on the left.

If this website came up without frames, click here to see the complete "New York City Books for Kids" website with frames.

For more historical fiction books about immigrant life, go to Life in the 1800s or Life in the 1900s pages.

For nonfiction history books about Ellis Island and Immigration go to the Ellis Island History Page

For books about the Statue of Liberty, go to Statue of Liberty Books Page.


Books for Beginning Readers



Dreaming of America: An Ellis Island Story by Eve Bunting

Awards:
  • International Reading Association Teacher's Choice Award

A Caldecott award-winning author tells the inspiring true story of the first Ellis Island immigrant, fifteen-year-old Annie Moore.

Description from Publisher

Annie Moore was the first Irish immigrant to be processed on Ellis Island, and she landed there on her fifteenth birthday in 1892. Based on her story, this picture book follows the classic immigrant pattern: the scary leavetaking of loving relatives; the long, difficult journey, with Annie caring for her two younger brothers in a cramped cabin; and, finally, the reunion with parents who had gone ahead to find a place. The full-page illustrations are a little glossy and glamorous (not a scarf or button out of place, even when the kids are huddled in steerage), and Annie's character is idealized (she never says an irritable word), but the long text is packed with information that will interest many readers, both for school reports and for the connections with their own family stories. The occasional period photos and prints--of the ship's passenger list with Annie and her brothers' names; of the Annie Moore statue in Ireland--add authenticity to this drama of ordinary people on a hard journey home.

Description from Booklist

On January 1, 1892, her 15th birthday, Annie Moore of Cork, Ireland, became the first immigrant to enter the United States through the new facilities at Ellis Island. This fictionalized account describes her voyage across the Atlantic on the SS Nevada with her two younger brothers to join their parents in New York after a three-year separation. Shipboard life in their third-class accommodations, the welcoming ceremony upon landing, and the emotions of the children are described in text and illustration. Despite a somewhat posed, static quality, the realistic illustrations are effective and rich in vibrant blues and browns. Set on flecked, beige paper, they often spill onto the second page of a spread. On several occasions, they are paired with reproductions of archival photographs and records, including the ship's passenger list with the names of the Moore children. An afterword gives what little information is known about Annie and includes a photo of her with her firstborn child. A solid account of a journey that many immigrants made at the turn of the century.

Description from School Library Journal

The Memory Coat

By Elvira Woodruff
An upbeat Jewish immigration story begins in the Russian shtetl and ends with an extended family coming to America to escape persecution. The warm, realistic period paintings, some in color, some in sepia shades, focus on young Rachel and her bond with her cousin Grisha, who has lost his parents in an epidemic and comes to live in her house. When the raids of the Cossacks drive the family to leave for America, Grandmother Bubba tries to get Grisha to leave his tattered coat: how will he pass the dreaded inspections at Ellis Island? If he looks too weak, the doctors might send him back to Russia. But the boy refuses to part with the coat because it is lined with the wool from his mother's coat, stitched by her for him before she died. When they get to Ellis Island, Grisha scratches his eye in a fall, and the doctor marks his coat with an "E." The family is frantic that he will be sent back to Russia, until Rachel has an idea: she turns the coat inside out, and Grisha gets through. In a long, interesting author's note, Woodruff discusses the shtetl and immigrant history, and also the true account she found in the Ellis Island museum of a child who got through the dreaded inspections after her family turned her coat inside out.

Description from Booklist

A moving story of a family emigrating to the United States from Russia at the turn of the century. To while away the days in their small village, or shtetl, Rachel makes up stories and her orphaned cousin draws pictures in the dirt or snow to illustrate them. Although Rachel's mother offers to make Grisha a new coat, the boy clings to his threadbare jacket because it reminds him of his mother. When Russian soldiers come to round up the Jews, the family is forced to flee and makes the long, arduous journey to America. Grisha is nearly turned away by immigration authorities at Ellis Island because of a cut on his eye. Rachel saves the situation when she turns his shabby coat inside out to hide the doctor's chalk mark. Realistic yet impressionistic oil paintings in subdued tones evoke scenes from village and farm life in the old country, while sepia-toned illustrations depict the hardships of the voyage and the grimness of the customs inspection. A touching story of immigration and the resiliency of those who underwent the transition, told with the fondness of a cherished memory.

Description from School Library Journal

Watch the Stars Come Out

By Riki Levinson
In this warm, poignant story, a little girl hears how, long ago, another little red-haired girl - her great-grandmother - sailed across the sea with her older brother to join their immigrant parents in a strange new land called America.

Description from Publisher

Awards:
  • An ALA Notable Children's Book
  • American Bookseller Pick of the Lists
  • Booklist Children's Editors' Choice
  • Parents' Choice Award for Literature
  • NCTE Teachers' Choice
  • NCSS/CBC Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies

Soon, Annala

By Riki Levinson
Anna counts the days until she and her family can go to meet the ferry that will bring her two younger brothers to the United States. Meanwhile, she goes to school and practices speaking English instead of Yiddish. Downing's watercolors are full of warmth and of period details lovingly rendered. A touching portrait of immigrant life in the early 1900s.

Description from Horn Book

Completing the story of one family's 1910 immigration to New York (Watch the Stars Come Out, 1985, ALA Notable), Levinson focuses on middle child Annala, who's beginning to learn English while she waits impatiently for little Sammy and Elly, left behind with Aunt Marya. At last, the great day arrives: Aunt, uncle, their new baby, and Sammy and Ella are joyfully received; that night, as the stars come out, Annala begins to teach her brother and sister to count in English. The story holds attention with its focus on the anticipated reunion and its authentic, well-integrated details of life in the new country; Downing reflects the warm, realistic tone in soft, beautifully composed watercolors--a contrast to Diane Goode's elegantly stylized art for the earlier book but appropriate.

Description from Kirkus Reviews

The Keeping Quilt

By Patricia Polacco
"We will make a quilt to help us always remember home," Anna's mother said. "It will be like having the family in backhome Russia dance around us at night."

And so it was. From a basket of old clothes, Anna's babushka, Uncle Vladimir's shirt, Aunt Havalah's nightdress and an apron of Aunt Natasha's become The Keeping Quilt, passed along from mother to daughter for almost a century. For four generations the quilt is a Sabbath tablecloth, a wedding canopy, and a blanket that welcomes babies warmly into the world.

In strongly moving pictures that are as heartwarming as they are real, Patricia Polacco tells the story of her own family, and the quilt that remains a symbol of their enduring love and faith.

Description from Publisher

Polacco's first-person voice moves her narrative forward gracefully from the time when her Great-Gramma Anna came to America during the last century to the present. Richly detailed charcoal drawings fill the pages of this beautifully conceived book. Particularly striking are the faces of the Russian Jewish immigrant families who people the pages. The only color used is in the babushka and dress of Great-Gramma Anna, which become part of a brightly hued quilt. Following that quilt through four generations is the basis of this account. Customs and fashions change, but family is constant, visually linked by the "keeping quilt.'' Children will be fascinated by the various uses to which the quilt is put, although some of those uses make one wonder how its "like-new'' shape was maintained. That stretch of the imagination is gentle, however, and does not mar the story. Readers who notice that the author and the narrator share the same name may realize that this lovely story is true; that should make it even more appealing.

Description from School Library Journal

A Picnic in October

By Eve Bunting
Young narrator Tony laments his Italian-American family's annual fall excursion to the Statue of Liberty: he's cold, their picnic is heavy (it includes Lady Liberty's birthday cake), and his grandparents get "soppy." But pride overrides embarrassment after he encounters three recent immigrants who lift his grandparents' story from abstraction. Accomplished acrylic paintings illustrate the somewhat sentimental story

Description from Horn Book

Bunting once again explores larger themes through a quiet family story. Every October, on Lady Liberty's birthday, Tony and his extended family have a picnic on Liberty Island. The family rendezvous at Battery Park to take the ferry out to the island. Waiting in line, Tony, who thinks the picnic is pretty corny, is approached by a woman, obviously a new immigrant. She gestures her alarm when the ferry departs without her; she is soothed when Tony motions that the ferry will return. Once on the island, Tony's family has the picnic before toasting the statue and blowing kisses to her. Later, Tony spies the woman he had helped earlier, and the way they look up at the statue, "so still, so respectful, so . . . so peaceful, makes me choke up." This sense of refuge drifts through Bunting's text, as fundamental and natural an element of life as are the everyday incidentals she braids into the story and all of which are exquisitely caught by Carpenter's vivid illustrations.

Description from Kirkus Reviews

This is a picture book about a New York City family's bus and ferryboat ride to attend their Grandmother's annual October birthday party on Liberty Island, home of the Statue of Liberty. We see and hear young Tony as he struggles to make personal sense of his family's ritual event. To Tony, the whole performance is too far, too cold, and just plain too embarrassing--until he understands why. Art and text present a strong three-generation family supporting their matriarch. Tony comes to realize the value of family in the trip to Grandmother's birthday picnic. Art depicting harbor vistas and "zoom ins" of family faces make a satisfying storybook whole.

Description from Children's Literature

Annushka's Voyage

By Edith Tarbescu
Based on the experience of Tarbescu's mother, this picture book is a simple, fictionalized, first-person account of the Jewish immigrant journey from Russia to America. Papa sends steamship tickets from New York City for Anya and her little sister, Tanya. Mama is dead, and Anya must care for her sister on the long journey. When they leave the Russian village, Grandma gives them each a family candlestick; on board the crowded ship, the sisters wave the candlesticks to find each other; when they get to Papa's apartment in the immigrant neighborhood, they light the candles for the Sabbath. Dabcovich's detailed pen-and-ink illustrations with acrylic and colored pencil show the leaving, the long journey over in the hold, the arrival, the terrifying medical inspections on Ellis Island, and the warmth of their reunion with their dad. Add this to all the immigration stories that will get younger readers interested in their own family stories.

Description from Booklist

Tatiana Comes to America: An Ellis Island Story

By Joan Holub
Sisters Lila and Rose are spending the year with their eccentric grandmother, who runs a doll hospital. The girls are not pleased with the arrangement, but they begin to enjoy themselves when they learn their grandmother has a special power to "read" the lives of the dolls she is working to restore. In each book, their grandmother tells he girls the story of a different doll. In this first book, we meet Tatiana, a Russian doll who travels to Ellis Island with her owner, a girl named Anya.

Description from Publisher

An Ellis Island Christmas

By Maxinne Rhea Leighton
Kyrsia and her brothers leave Poland with their mother to join their father in America. After an arduous ocean voyage, they arrive at Ellis Island on Christmas Eve. Sepia-toned and soft-edged, the illustrations convey a young immigrant's hopes and fears.

Description fromHorn Book

When Jessie Came Across the Sea

By Amy Hest
This narrative of 13-year-old Jessie's journey from a poor village in Eastern Europe to New York City at the turn of the century affords readers a panoramic view of events and people. The author's exploration of a variety of emotions and feelings provides modern youngsters with a sense of connections with times long past. There is the familial devotion between Jessie and her grandmother, whom she has to leave behind. A shipboard friendship with Lou, a young shoemaker, helps Jessie survive the hardships and uncertainties of the ocean crossing. Her skill as a lacemaker, painstakingly learned from her grandmother, insures her success in the dressmaker's shop where she goes to work. Her romance with Lou is rekindled when they meet years later on a wintry day in Central Park. Jessie's reunion with her grandmother, whose ticket she has purchased with money saved during years of hard work, is the poignant conclusion to this tale. Lynch's luminous watercolor and gouache illustrations capture the characters' feelings, at the same time recording the storms at sea and teeming streets of the Lower East Side. The two young people's spirit of hope and optimism, created by the straightforward text, is enhanced by these pictures, as they provide a visual record of difficulties encountered by the scores of immigrants who reached these shores. This book will be particularly useful for units on immigration and family histories, used in conjunction with Allen Say's Grandfather's Journey or Jeanette Winter's Klara's New World

Description from School Library Journal

Jessie and her grandmother live in an Eastern European shtetel where, one day, the Rabbi informs the villagers that his brother has died and left him one ticket to "the promised land." The rabbi feels he cannot leave his people and decides to give the ticket to 13-year-old Jessie. It's almost too much for Jessie and her grandmother to bear, though both believe it is for the best. In America, Jessie follows her grandmother's trade and becomes a dressmaker. She works for three years until she has enough saved to purchase another ticket--for her grandmother. This picture book for older children is handsomely crafted. The pages are thick, and the watercolor-and-gouache paintings that illustrate the story are luminous. Lynch's full-page and paneled art, especially the scenes of Jessie at sea, have a panoramic quality. The pictures are striking, but it's the text that conveys the human emotions of loss, hope, and love that children will respond to.

Description from Booklist

A Very Important Day

By Maggie Rugg Herold
Early one morning, too excited to sleep, a woman from the Philippines watches from her window as snow falls on New York City. As the day breaks, 11 other families-each originally from a different country-are seen heading downtown and heard referring to this ``very important day.'' Youngsters won't pick up on their destination until well past the story's midpoint: these families are bound for the courthouse, where, among a vast group, they are sworn in as U.S. citizens. After each receives a certificate and recites an oath, the judge announces: "Welcome. We are glad to have you. This is a very important day." And as the new citizens, their families and friends leave the building to view the sun shining on the freshly fallen snow, a voice in the crowd proclaims, awkwardly and repetitiously, "This has become our country on this very important day!" Ending with a note explaining the process of gaining citizenship, Herold's first children's book meets the target audience in terms of its content, but its repetitive structure is better suited to younger children.

Description from Publishers Weekly

November 25th is the day that 219 people will take the oath of allegiance to the United States and become citizens. The focus of this multicultural narrative is the naturalization ceremony, which brings the 12 families introduced in the previous pages together in celebration of this momentus event. Each double-page segment is devoted to one family as fathers, mothers, children, and other relatives prepare to leave for the court in lower Manhattan. Originally coming from Scotland or Ghana, India or El Salvador, each group shares the nervous excitement generated by this occasion. Because of the episodic nature of the book, it is sometimes difficult to keep track of the many characters, but a glossary of names at the end is helpful for pronunciation and reinforces the geographical spread of the countries represented. Herold includes a brief explanation of what is involved in becoming a U.S. citizen, which will make clear to young readers the lengthy process and amount of preparation that has brought each individual to this day. Stock's sprightly watercolors reinforce the celebratory mood, even as they depict the details of homes, dress, and way of life of various people. Both author and illustrator have also captured the nuances of the way the children are already Americanized in their dress and colloquial conversations. Many books deal with the immigrant experience in terms of getting here and settling in; this title offers another dimension. A welcome addition to the picture-book shelves.

Description from School Library Journal

After the first quiet, gray-tone painting, which pictures a solitary face staring out at a city dawn dotted with snowflakes, this book bursts forth in a riot of color and activity. Each double-page spread introduces a different family--the Huertas, the Leonovs, the Zengs, the Akuffos, the Patels, and many others--who announce their excitement about this "very special day," the day they will be sworn in as naturalized citizens of the U.S. Multicultural in the broadest sense, the book shows people of different countries united by their patriotism, their common delight in the beautiful snow-dotted cityscape, and their excitement about the event. There is no real story, simply a linear progression toward the common goal (not revealed until the final few spreads), orchestrated smoothly enough so children won't ever miss knowing all the many characters by name. A glossary supplies guidance for pronouncing names, and a clear, nicely detailed overview of the process of naturalization rounds things out. Pictures and story combine to make the joy of the day contagious.

Description from Booklist

American Too

By Elisa Bartone
From the same team behind Peppe the Lamplighter, another moving tale of Italian immigrants on Mulberry Street. Rosina thinks she must shed her Italian ways to be really American. She insists that her parents call her Rosie, and she changes her doll's name from Allesandra to the good "American" name of Meghan O'Hara. While her family speaks Italian, waving their hands around, Rosie sits on her hands and answers in English. And when Papa tells her that she'll be the queen of the feast of San Gennaro, she storms, Why do we always have to do Italian things? This is America, not Italy!

While gazing at the Statue of Liberty, she has a wonderful idea--a way to be American and Italian, too, a way to have the best of both worlds. Bartone's prose is tight and well-paced with subtle touches of humor. Lewin's glowing illustrations, carefully researched for historical detail, make Rosie and her surroundings palpable.

Description from Kirkus Reviews

Set in the Little Italy of post-WWI Manhattan, this uplifting companion to the Caldecott Honor book Peppe the Lamplighter introduces a feisty girl who emigrates from Italy with her family. As their ship arrives in New York, Rosina spies the Statue of Liberty and announces that she wants to wear a dress and crown and carry a torch, just like that grand lady. Determined to be "a modern American girl," she changes her name to Rosie, refuses to eat the eggplant her mother packs in her school lunch and tells her parents she will not play the queen in the annual feast of San Gennaro. But as she watches the preparations for the Italian feast day, Rosie hatches a plan that lets her participate in the celebration yet prove her allegiance to her new country. The likable heroine and judicious details about the setting help distill the experience of new Americans caught between two cultures. Lewin's stunning paintings, often so clearly focused and lifelike as to resemble photographs, convey the flavor of the periodin clothing, decor, architectureas well as Rosie's highly charged emotions.

Description from Publishers Weekly

When This World Was New

By D. H. Figueredo
True to the child's viewpoint, this picture book tells an elemental immigration story that is candid about both the hardship and the hope. Danilito is scared when he leaves his warm Caribbean island home to fly to the U.S. with his parents. He feels like an outsider in the crowded New York City airport ("They didn't speak in Spanish"). Mam is sad; Pap is worried about her. A kind relative is waiting for them, and he helps them settle in a small house ("All the rooms had furniture"). He warns them that they must speak in English and that the winters are long and cold. Danilito worries about starting in a new school where no one knows Spanish. He fumbles with the thick winter clothes. But when he wakes up in the morning, it is snowing; he and Pap leave their footprints in the snow, and everything is new and magical. As in Uri Shulevitz's 1999 Caldecott Honor book, Snow, the child sees a world transformed by the falling snow. Sanchez's tender acrylic illustrations show the child's feelings of fear and wonder as well as the adults' tension. The pictures show what the title says about the sense of discovery in a new home.

Description from Booklist

Danilito and his parents have just arrived in New York from their Caribbean island home. They have a place to live and some warm clothing for their first winter. But Danilto is worried. How can he go to school when he speaks no English? How will he find friends among all these strangers? The next morning Papa wakes Danilito up, telling him to look out the window. "Nieve," Papa explains. "Snow." The two explore the magical world of their first snowfall in New York, and Danilito finds that he is still scared. But not as much.

Description from Publisher

My Name is Not Gussie

By Mikki Machlin
Golda and her family are leaving their home in Russia to embark on an exciting journey. But why are the grownups crying? Golda doesn't understand. All she knows is that she and her family are going to America, where the streets are paved with gold and money grows on trees. Soon Golda realizes that her grandparents will not be coming with them on the voyage, but even this sad fact can not quell her excitement for the trip.

Things are as different as they possibly can be in America. Golda soon comes to learn that there are no golden streets in New York City, but that wishes can still come true, even in this foreign place. This beguiling tale of the immigrant experience, told through the eyes of a child, is sure to warm the heart of every reader.

Description from Publisher

A series of brief anecdotes told in the highly original and captivating voice of the author's grandmother describes in merry and precise detail the experience of leaving eastern Europe at the turn of the century and making a new home on New York's Lower East Side. Colorful, expressive paintings, infused with both the New World's energy and the folkloric warmth of the old, provide a perfect visual complement.

Description from Horn Book

Immigrant Girl :
Becky of Eldridge Street
Ten-year-old Becky Moscowitz has come from rural Russia to live in the noisy, crowded Lower East Side of New York City in 1910. She has settled into a three room flat with her Mama, Papa, two brothers, one sister, grandmother, aunt, and a boarder. She has many new experiences -- learning the English language at school, playing street games, going to the Nickelodeon, shopping at the market on Hester Street, visiting a library. In addition to providing a delightful "slice of life'' book about turn-of-the-century Jewish immigration, Harvey and Ray also provide young audiences with a bit of historical information about pogroms, sweatshops, and Jewish religious traditions. A glossary of unfamiliar terms further enhances the book's utility. Numerous soft black-and-white drawings combine perfectly with the well characterized text to yield a warm, interesting glimpse of the past -- one not often available to readers of this age group.

Description from School Library Journal

The Dream Jar

By Bonnie Pryor
Pryor's classic, upbeat immigration story of hard work, family togetherness, and the fulfillment of the American dream is set in a New York City neighborhood at the turn of the century. Valentina remembers when her father was a farmer in Russia. Now he works long, hard hours as a bricklayer in America. Her mother does piecework sewing at home. Valentina wants to help, but Papa tells her she must go to school "and learn to be a real American girl." She's jealous when her brother brags about the money he earns, but then she finds her own job: she teaches her family and their immigrant neighbors to read English. Papa gets a better job, and the family finally find their dream: a house of their own and a general store. It's an idyllic story, and Graham's handsome oil paintings in rich shades of blue and purple show a smiling happy family, even in hard times. He captures the rushing energy of the busy streets and tenements of the Lower East Side. Most moving is the scene of the adults crowded around the kitchen table after dark while the child teaches them what she has learned in school.

Description from Booklist

In a perfect combination of text and illustration, the story of Valentina and her family, immigrants to the U.S. from Russia at the turn of the century, unfolds in an absorbing, satisfying way. Papa, who sang and laughed when he sold vegetables in Russia, is exhausted and quiet after his days of bricklaying. Mama and Aunt Katherine sew piecework for hours. Michael drops out of school to work for a baker. All their earnings go into the dream jar to finance a store of their own. Valentina is crushed because she is too little to do anything but go to school and help care for her younger siblings. Her scholastic proficiency, however, soon has her teaching her father, brother, and neighbors how to read and speak English. The writing style is simple but vivid and expressive, with convincing dialogue and a good flow and rhythm for reading aloud. The plot is familiar, and of course there is a happy ending, but it comes from hard work and sacrifice. Education and family life are valued, and love shines through the entire narrative. Graham's muted oil paintings have a diffused softness, a luminescence, and express the dream-filled reality of the theme. Full- and double-page spreads and vignettes give an attractive variety to the format. Every character has a definite personality, and Valentina is a winsome child whose eyes shine with spirit and energy.

Description from School Library Journal

The Castle on Hester Street

By Linda Heller
Delightful and funny! Grandpa tells the story of his trip from Russia to New York pulled by a flying goat, of buttons the size of sleds, and of a castle on Hester Street. Grandmother tells the way it really was.

Description from Publisher

A clever way to introduce the immigrant experience. A grandfather tells his grandaughter tall tales about each stage in his immigration to the U.S. and his early life in New York. Then the grandmother deflates each tale and explains how things really were back then. I find this two-step process to be a clever way to teach children about the experience which their grandparents went through, first hooking them with a silly story, and then hitting them with the facts. The book is especially useful for reading aloud to children whose grandparents can no longer tell the story themselves, or for inspiring children to ask their grandparents about their experience.

From Amazon.com customer review

Journey to the Golden Land

By Richard Rosenblum
Many years ago Benjamin and his family set out on a long journey. They were eager to leave the hard life of their Russian homeland for the comfort and wealth of America. America was far away. And getting there would involve many difficulties. There was the fear of getting caught, an over-crowded train, a packed, rocky ship, and finally, the terrors of Ellis Island.

Description from Publisher

The pictures tell the story in this book about turn-of-the-century emigration to America. When Benjamin's Papa and Mama receive a letter filled with money from Papa's brother in the "Golden Land," they decide that the family will have a brighter future across the ocean than in czarist Russia. Rosenblum emphasizes the terrors of the journey: the family escapes soldiers, endures a difficult crossing and faces the officials at Ellis Island, who change the family's name when Papa cannot spell it. The elaborately wrought black-and-white illustrations, many modeled on vintage photographs, variously suggest the calm of Benjamin's native village and the huddled hopeful masses at Ellis Island. Where the illustrations are precise and abundantly detailed, the text tries hard to serve as Everyman's family history. References to the characters' religion are suppressed and geographic locations, other than Russia and New York, go undisclosed. But the attempt at universality frequently ends in simplistic writing: "The Czar made cruel and unjust laws and used mean soldiers to enforce them." For older readers, Karen Hesse's Letters to Rifka offers a more thorough and dramatic treatment of this subject.

Description from Publishers Weekly

The Morning Chair

By Barbara M. Joosse
Based on her husband's experience emigrating from Holland to the U.S. as a young boy in 1950, Joosse's story juxtaposes the familiar sights and sounds left behind with the jarringly foreign images confronting Bram in his new home. The "soft sounds of neighbors" are overpowered by the noises of New York City; neighborly faces waving greetings are lost to hurrying people "looking at their feet and not at Bram." Then, finally, the family's furniture arrives, turning the stark, new apartment into a comforting home and allowing Bram to start his days sitting with his mother in their "morning chair." Bram no longer feels threatened by his new surroundings, which, once harsh, now hold the promise of welcome. The soft-edged gouache art is deceptively simple, its economical strokes conveying the emotion of upheaval and the drama of the journey. Even the use of colors heightens Bram's sense of isolation and intensifies the vivid images of his memories.

Description from Booklist

In Holland, every morning begins with Bram and Mama snuggled in their special chair, talking and sipping tea. But everything changes when the family immigrates to New York. Bram finds life in the noisy city difficult -- until their furniture arrives, and he and Mama settle back in the familiar chair, where they talk about what they like and don't like about America. The gouache paintings speak eloquently of the feelings involved in immigrating to a new land.

Description from Horn Book

Immigrant stories have a certain pattern to them, but Ms. Joosse has chosen a generous way of telling this one that should give it a long life. As necessary as it is to have books on historical events, hot topics, ethical issuesand other things we want children to know about, those are probably not the books that are asked for again and again. In a shaky world, children crave reassurance; they need the idea of unconditional love in a family whose members may often act selfishly, and they want to be appreciated during stressful times. . . . The last words in the text are about the 'laughing and talking' of the'new neighbors in America.' Possibilities for affection are everywhere. This coda fits in gracefully with the overall 'I love you' theme. . . . {Sewall's} depiction of motion, rounded shapes and soft, fuzzy, Crayola-clear colors make for a classic style that is most soothing, with a gentleness of spirit to suit the mood of adults and children sharing books.

Description from The New York Times Book Review

The Butterfly Seeds

By Mary Watson
When Jake and his family emigrate to America, he is sad to leave his grandfather behind, but Grandpa gives Jake some "magic" butterfly seeds to plant in the new country and to remember him by. Watson's realistic double-spread paintings are as upbeat as the story, showing the journey by boat, the arrival at Ellis Island, and the hardworking immigrant community in turn-of-the-century New York. With the help of the people around him, Jake plants his seeds in a window box, and one day masses of butterflies flock to the plants in the box. From Jake's tenement window, he looks out on narrow, crowded streets. The alleys are dark, but individual faces, like Jake's, are lit with hope and friendship.

Description from Booklist




Books for Older Readers



Journey to Ellis Island

By Carol Bierman
In 1922, 11-year-old Yehuda Weinstein, his mother, and his sister made their way across Europe and aboard the Rotterdam, bound for New York. Days later, immigration inspectors noticed that the boy's arm was in a sling and refused him entry into the U.S. The book, based on the experiences of the author's father, details with drama and affection the youngster's detention on Ellis Island until he was seen by medical personnel and his eventual arrival in New York. Bierman accurately describes the facility's processing procedures, regulations, routines, and dormitories. Of additional historical interest is the family's flight from Porusetz, Russia, behind a retreating Russian Army. While a bit of the momentum may be lost for some readers due to narrative shifts in time, the combination of archival materials and human interest makes this a natural accompaniment to immigration units. In telling the story, the author relies heavily on fictionalized dialogue. Well-chosen sepia photographs, including some of the family; reproductions of postcards of Ellis Island during the 1920s; and full-page watercolor-and-casein artwork illustrate the presentation giving it the look of a photo album. A final photograph of the 86-year-old Weinstein in the Ellis Island Registry Room he passed through 75 years earlier brings his moving story full circle

Description from School Library Journal

Yehuda, the author's father, must prove that he is strong enough to be allowed to enter New York. He must run around Ellis Island not once but twice! The photographs and hand-colored postcards of the era add authenticity and make this journey vivid and memorable. It is a gem for social studies and family oral history programs. The story of his immigration to America in 1922 is a universal one.

Description from Children's Literature

Melting Pot :
An Adventure in New York

(The Do-It-Yourself Jewish Adventure Series)

By Kenneth Roseman
As a young Jewish immigrant from Russia in the turbulent Lower East Side of New York at the turn of the century, the reader must make decisions that could mean success or failure as he tries to establish himself in his new country. Your decisions determine your family's future.

Description from the Publisher

Description from the Publisher

Letters from Rifka

By Karen Hesse
Twelve-year-old Rifka's journey from a Jewish community in the Ukraine to Ellis Island is anything but smooth sailing. Modeled on the author's great-aunt, Rifka surmounts one obstacle after another in this riveting novel. First she outwits a band of Russian soldiers, enabling her family to escape to Poland. There the family is struck with typhus. Everyone recovers, but Rifka catches ringworm on the next stage of the journey -- and is denied passage to America ("If the child arrives . . . with this disease," explains the steamship's doctor, "the Americans will turn her around and send her right back to Poland"). Rifka's family must leave without her, and she is billeted in Belgium for an agreeable if lengthy recovery. Further trials, including a deadly storm at sea and a quarantine, do not faze this resourceful girl. Told in the form of "letters" written by Rifka in the margins of a volume of Pushkin's verse and addressed to a Russian relative, Hesse's vivacious tale colorfully and convincingly refreshes the immigrant experience.

Description from Publisher Weekly

Land of Hope

By Joan Lowery Nixon
Russian immigrant Rebekah Levinsky hopes desperately that her dream will come true in America. On the difficult ocean journey to the "land of opportunity" she meets two other girls--Kristin Swensen from Sweden and Rose Carney from Ireland. The three quickly become friends as they share their visions of the future and endure life on the overcrowded ship.

Once they reach Ellis Island the girls must separate and Rebekah and her family settle in New York on the Lower East Side. Instead of finding streets paved with gold, they slave seven days a week in a sweatshop. Will Rebekah find the courage to conquer the odds and find happiness in the United States of America.

Description from Publisher

In the first book of the Ellis Island series, 15-year-old Rebekah Levinsky escapes persecution against Jews in Russia and flees with her family to join Uncle Avir in New York City. Few of the family's belongings can be brought on the treacherous voyage, and Rebekah misses her best friend and the home she leaves behind. Even so, she adapts quickly to life on board the ship and finds friends. Her arduous journey is vividly described; her friendships and fleeting shipboard romance are less convincing. When Rebekah's grandfather is denied entry into the U.S. because he is lame, the family is devastated. They are also unprepared for the cramped living quarters of their new home and the long hours they must work in the sweat shop to survive in the new land. Despite the difficulties, Rebekah is still granted her one wish--to go to school. Nixon's careful rendering of life for immigrants in the early 1900s is realistically harsh yet hopeful, and teenagers will absorb a strong sense of the times as they read Rebekah's engrossing story.

Description from Booklist

When Rebekah Levinsky and her family embark on the long voyage to America at the turn of the century, she befriends two other young immigrants. At Ellis Island, the three friends part ways, with the Levinskys staying in New York. The city is a shock as they adjust to the many changes and new hardships. An honest portrayal of a slice of American history, from the perspective of a young Russian-Jewish immigrant.

Description from Horn Book

Dreams in the Golden Country :
The Diary of Zipporah Feldman, a Jewish Immigrant Girl

By Kathryn Lasky
Zipporah Feldman, a 12-year-old Jewish immigrant from Russia, uses diary entries to chronicle her family's activities as they acclimate to life on New York City's Lower East Side. The hopes and dreams of a young girl are beautifully portrayed through Lasky's eloquent and engaging narrative. Readers are quickly drawn into Zipporah's world of traditional Jewish ritual and celebrations and will identify with the girl's desires to aspire to greatness in her new home. She absorbs the freedom of America, wanting to share her enthusiasm with her parents, encouraging her father to pursue his love of music and trying to persuade her mother to shed some of her strict religious ways. The story's historical significance is evident in the Feldman's arrival at Ellis Island and the subsequent procedures immigrants had to endure, and in the description of the factory fire in which Zipporah's friend dies, which is based on the famous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory of 1911. Characters are portrayed as strong individuals, and their motives are believable. Readers learn in an epilogue that Zipporah pursued her love for the theater and eventually rose to stardom. Archival photos, accompanied by a recipe for hamantaschen and the traditional Jewish song to welcome the Sabbath, bring the reality of the novel to light. A story of hope and of love for one's country.

Description from School Library Journal

One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping:
The Diary of Julie Weiss,
Vienna, Austria to New York, 1938

By by Barry Denenberg
This special edition, a first in the Dear America series, vividly captures World War II in two disparate but dramatic cities, beginning in Vienna and continuing in New York. In Part One, twelve-year-old Julie Weiss's world crashes around her when Hitler's invasion of Vienna forces her way to flee to the only home she has ever known. Leaving her beloved father behind, she heads off to America in Part Two, and starts a new life in New York City with an extended family she has never met. Through this transition from war zone to safe haven Julie is feisty and brave, emotional and real.

Description from Publisher

This entry in the Dear America series follows 13-year-old Julie Weiss through the pivotal year 1938, when the Nazis invade Austria. Julie's father is a beloved doctor in Vienna, her mother a social butterfly, her brother a Zionist. Although Julie knows she is Jewish it doesn't mean much to her until the Nazis come, and the Jewish population is terrorized; Julie's mother commits suicide rather than endure the coming horror. Dr. Weiss has had the foresight to give Julie English lessons and gets her to an aunt in New York. Here the story takes on a fairy-tale quality. Julie's aunt is a famous stage actress, and within a few short months Julie is appearing on the stage with her, to much acclaim. The book contains some omissions: no mention of Julie's trip from Vienna to New York, and after a few bad moments, not much questioning of what has become of her family. But author Denenberg does a good job of capturing what it must have been like for Viennese Jews, who felt secure with their lives and friendships only to find everything can change in a minute. Photos of Vienna and New York, as well as other information, are appended.

Description from Booklist

Annie Moore: New York City Girl

By Eithne Loughrey
The fifteen-year-old who was the very first immigrant to land at the famous handling station at Ellis Island, New York, has now become a young woman of twenty. Annie returns to New York and her family and friends after her two-year stay in the wild west. She is excited by all the opportunities New York has to offer her, but especially by the prospect of spending more time with Mike Tierney, the young man she loves. The glamour of New York life is seductive, although it contrasts sharply with the poverty all around. Annie sees both sides of the city, and must decide where her loyalties lie. While Mike is campaigning in a presidential election, Annie fights for women's right to vote. Then, just when life seems to be going right, war intervenes, taking Mike far away, into great danger. Annie discovers that there is sorrow as well as joy in growing up and that some things are irreplaceable.

Description from Publisher

Nell Dunne: Ellis Island, 1904

By Kathleen Duey
Ellis Island
1904

Still aboard the ASTORIA
February 12, 1904

I want to get off this cold, gray ocean more than I have ever wanted anything....oh, how I just wish we would arrive and be off this smelly ship.

The ship is nearing Ellis Island. Arriving in America will mean seeing her father again after two long years, but Nell Dunne is still miserable. The journey has been awful; the food is stale and the ship is filthy. Nell's mother and baby sister have been seasick off and on, and her grandmother's forgetfulness and confusion have gotten worse. And now Nell is worried about rumors saying the American inspectors at Ellis Island can send infirm, elderly people back. If Granny Rose is sent home to Ireland, Nell will have to go, too, to take care of her. Has Nell endured the arduous ocean crossing only to end up being separated frorm her family?

Description from Publisher

This engrossing novel begins with the Irish Dunne family sailing in steerage to Ellis Island in 1904. The narrator Nell is traveling with her mother, grandmother, older brother Patrick, and baby sister Fiona. The text illustrates convincingly the hardships faced by immigrants coming to this country at the turn-of-the-century. The focus of the plot includes not only the journey itself, but also the actual processing of immigrants at Ellis Island. Readers will feel as if they are standing alongside Nell, hungry, tired and cold, as she winds through line after line of inspections, and health checks. Her greatest fear is that her beloved grandmother may be sent back to Ireland because she is not able to work and gets confused sometimes. Nell saves the day by convincing inspectors that her family would never let Granny Rose become a public charge. This novel, which is part of the publisher's "American Diaries" series, is excellent historical fiction.

Description from Children's Literature

Cousins in the Castle

By Barbara Brooks Wallace
Plucked out of her comfortable life in Victorian London by her forbidding cousin Charlotte, Amelia sets sail for New York. But no sooner does she land than the orphaned 11-year-old finds herself abandoned and then imprisoned. Deliciously gothic, this Dickensian mystery is full of evil villains and so many plot twists that the pages practically turn themselves.

Description from Publisher

Amelia is used to a life of luxury; but when her father dies and she's sent from London to relatives in New York, her life becomes a nightmare. A harsh aunt's journey with her, an encounter with an unusual actress on board an ocean liner, and the ultimate betrayal which changes her life on American soil leads readers into a solid mystery with many twists and turns. Fast-paced action and unpredictability are this novel's strengths.

Description from Midwest Book Review

Amelia Fairwick, 11, is a motherless child of comfortable means living in Victorian London. When her father purportedly dies on a business trip, she must go to America to live with her closest relatives, distant cousins in New York. The journey is Amelia's first introduction to Cousin Charlotte, a cold, strict chaperone who has come to collect her. The shipboard passage is brightened, however, by Amelia's acquaintance with sprightly Primrose, an orphaned singer in the employ of two grasping rogues slated to perform their musical comedy routine in New York. When the ship arrives, Amelia is abandoned on the pier by Charlotte and winds up in the care of Mrs. Dobbins, a kindly woman who offers her shelter in her tiny basement flat. But the next morning, Mrs. Dobbins is gone, and Amelia discovers that she is a prisoner. Suspicions mount that her cousins are after her fortune as Amelia escapes, searches out her pal Primrose (who is revealed to be a boy named Rosie), and eventually arrives at the forbidding mansion of her dastardly relations.

Description from School Library Journal

Hitty's Travels: Ellis Island Days

y Ellen Weiss
Meet Hitty.

She may be just a doll, but she has lived in many places and seen incredible things. Here is one of her adventures, as told by Hitty herself!

Hitty travels to Italy in style with a spoiled little rich girl, but soon falls into the hands of Fiorella Rossi, a kind girl whose poor family longs to reach America. Will the Rossis survive of their difficult journey?

Description from Publisher

This series features the doll from the 1930 Newbery Medal winner, Hitty: Her First Hundred Years. Hitty, who has been sitting for six months in an antique store in New York City, is purchased by a wealthy man for his spoiled daughter. Louisa thinks Hitty is ugly and useless and won't play with her. However, to spite her friend who wants to play with her new toy, she takes the doll on the family's trip to Italy, where Hitty is lost in Naples and found by a man who gives her to his niece, who loves her. When Fiorella and her family leave for the United States, she takes the doll with her.

Description from School Library Journal

One-Way to Ansonia

By Judie Angell
The story of a young girl, Rose Olshansky, from her days in New York when she was just a girl, until she decided she was going to Ansonia, Connecticut to begin her new life. Filled with vivid portrayals and moving moments, this journey with Rose is a non-stop adventure!

Description from Publisher

The story of Rose, one of a large Russian Jewish immigrant family, begins as she buys a ticket to Ansonia at Grand Central Station in 1899. Sixteen, she is taking her baby away from the squalor of tenement life. . . . {The story} then goes back to the arrival, six years earlier, of Rose and her siblings in New York; they were to be a surprise for their father's new wife, but they were all hastily put in separate but equally crowded homes and put to work. Rose was the rebel . . . secretly going to night school--secretly because Papa wouldn't approve.

Description from Bull Cent Child Books

The Cat Who Escaped from Steerage: A Bubbemeiser

By Evelyn Wilde Mayerson
The cat in question is Pitsel, a stray adopted by nine-year-old Chanah when her family passed through Marseilles on their way from Poland to America. The year is 1910, the family is poor, and steerage is the only passage they can afford. But Chanah has worries beyond the discomforts of the ship. Traveling with them is a young cousin, Yaacov, who is deaf and may be turned back at Ellis Island, and Pitsel might be turned back as well. When the cat disappears, Chanah begins a desperate search that takes her into the heady heights of the third-class deck and beyond with Yaacov, who communicates with her by gesture, as her chief ally. The story moves along briskly, and conveys a good sense of what travel was like for millions of immigrants. Attention has been paid to characterization, even of bit players. Adults may remain skeptical of the climactic scene in which Chanah successfully battles immigration officials and wins entry for Yaacov, but children will enjoy her triumphs. A nicely written addition to historical-fiction collections

Description from School Library Journal

The Orphan of Ellis Island: A Time-Travel Adventure

By Elvira Woodruff
"Many, many people have walked through these halls feeling frightened and alone. Coming to a new country is like being adopted into a new family." Thus Elvira Woodruff launches a parallel between sailing to a new country and walking into the love of a family. Orphan of Ellis Island chronicles the journeys of Dominic Cantori: one to 1908 Italy and one a personal journey in which a lonely orphan learns what it is like to be part of a family. When he is left behind on a school trip to the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, Dominic finds himself transported to a time and place where he feels more alone than ever. With the help of his self-appointed family, he finds that he too can enjoy a family's love. Woodruff's well-researched novel beautifully describes the similarities between an orphan and an immigrant's search for a home. Appealing to younger teenagers, the map, glossary, and pronunciation guide will add to the enjoyment of Dominic's adventure.

Description from The ALAN Review

Dominic Cantori has spent most of his life in foster care. When a guide asks Dominic's fifth-grade class to talk about their families during a field trip to Ellis Island, the boy is embarrassed because he has no heritage to discuss, and hides in a storage closet where he promptly falls asleep. Waking after the museum is closed, he panics until the prerecorded voice of one of the exhibits soothes him back to sleep. When he wakes again, he finds himself in Italy in 1908. He is befriended by three orphan brothers who are waiting for sponsors to pay their passage to America. Dominic becomes part of their adventures and gains a new sense of family. When one of the brothers dies tragically, Dominic accompanies the other two to America and discovers that the boys may actually be related to him in more than just spirit. He arrives on Ellis Island, first as a new immigrant, and finally as a boy returning from a long journey, or perhaps a dream, that has given him a new sense of himself as well as hope for his future. Easy to read and hard to put down, this convincing novel gives a poignant and believable picture of the lives and motivations of some of this country's immigrants, and of one boy who learns about himself. While the time-travel element and subsequent plot twists occur almost too easily, the characters and situations are too involving to quibble about story construction. An enjoyable and informative tale.

Description from School Library Journal

Dominic, who's been raised by a succession of foster parents, hides during a trip to Ellis Island and finds himself transported to 1908 Italy. When he returns to his own time--after traveling to America with other immigrants and learning that one of the boys is actually his great-grandfather--he feels at peace with his life as an orphan. The time-slip fantasy provides a sense of history and offers an unusual perspective on the definition of family

Description from Horn Book

Behind the Mountains

By Edwidge Danticat
Launching the First Person Fiction series of immigrant coming-of-age stories, Danticat's (Breath, Eyes, Memory, for adults) debut novel for young people follows Celiane's journey from her mountain village in Haiti to join her father in Brooklyn. The narrative opens in October 2000 and unfolds as a journal, in which 13-year-old Celiane recounts events in a charming, innocent voice ("I must go soon, sweet little book, to prepare for Manman's return from the market"). Daily activities (e.g., preparing for market, listening to cassettes her father sends) give way to mounting political tensions as the presidential election approaches. Oddly, however, Celiane's childlike hopefulness persists even after she and her mother are injured by a pipe bomb ("Dear, sweet little book, if I could hold onto you so tightly that you are now here with me, why couldn't I have done the same for Manman?"). In December, Celiane, her mother and brother rejoin her father, who left five years before due to economic pressures. Through Celiane's spare if somewhat simplistic narration, the author captures the color and texture of Haitian life as well as the heroine's adjustment to New York. While readers may want to hear more about her experiences in Brooklyn, they will appreciate the truthfulness of the family's struggle to reconnect (even if the presentation of some of the historical information seems clunky). Danticat details her own departure from Haiti as an afterword.

Description from Publishers Weekly

As the best student in the class, Celiane is given a "sweet little book" in which she decides to keep a journal. Her entries date from October 2000 to March 2001, and chronicle the family's departure from their homeland of Haiti to join her father, who had immigrated to New York City five years earlier. In graceful prose, Danticat seamlessly weaves together all that such a decision involves: the difficulties of rural life on the island and a longing for an absent parent combined with a fondness for her tiny mountain village with "the rainbows during sun showers- the smell of pinewood burning, the golden-brown sap dripping into the fire"; and the excitement and violence of Port-au-Prince where Celiane and her mother are injured in bombings before the elections. When Celiane, her mother, and her 19-year-old brother are finally approved to enter the U.S., the teen knows everything will be all right as soon as she sees her father, but there are the unavoidable frictions among family members, fueled not only by the separation and adjustment to a new country, but also by the natural maturing process that the children undergo. In this gem of a book, Danticat explores the modern immigrant experience through the eyes of one teen.

Description from School Library Journal

In award-winning author Edwidge Danticat's first novel for young readers, it is election time in Haiti. Bombs are going off in the capital city of Port-au-Prince, and Celiane Esperance and her mother are nearly killed, giving them a fresh resolve to join Celiane's father in Brooklyn, New York. The harsh winter and concrete landscape are a shock to Celiane, who witnesses her parents' struggle to earn a living, her brother's uneasy adjustment to America, and her own encounters with learning difficulties and school violence.

Description from Publisher

The Gold Coin: A Story About New York City's Lower East Side

By Pamela J. Dell
This fiction series brings historical events to life for young readers. In these stories, Pamela J. Dell tells the story of young people caught up in the events of their day. Each period and its characters come vividly to life. Written for upper elementary children, the stories and the events behind them were chosen for their curricular relevance. Each book, designed to look like a scrapbook put together by the story's main character, includes additional facts and information in the margins of each page. Backmatter helps extend the books across the curriculum. Writing activities encourage readers to create their own historical fiction. The craft activity section shows readers how to make their own personal scrapbooks. The oral history or community activity helps readers discover history in their own families or towns.

Description from Publisher

Streets of Gold: A Novel

By Marie Raphael
A Polish girl comes to America at the turn of the century in this fast-paced historical novel about the immigrant experience. It's 1901. Marisia and her family flee Poland ahead of the czar's soldiers. But when they arrive at Ellis Island, Marisia's younger sister is diagnosed with tuberculosis and she and her parents are turned away. Now, with only her wits and her courage to guide her, Marisia and her brother Stefan must find their way in the New World alone. Streets of Gold is Marisia's story--the story of a spirited young girl who dreams of becoming an artist. Can she overcome the hardships of immigrant life on New York's Lower East Side, the struggle to find work, and the tyrannical views of those who stand in her way? If one dream dies, can she find another dream to live by? Deftly written, rich with historical detail, and illustrated with period photographs, Streets of Gold "will carry [you] to another time and place....Readers won't want the story to end"

Description from Publisher

Hoping for a better life, fifteen-year-old Marisia and her family escape Poland in 1901 and board a ship headed to America. At Ellis Island, it is discovered that Marisia's little sister, Katrina, has tuberculosis. While their parents and two younger siblings are forced to return to Germany, Marisia and her older brother, Stefan, remain in the United States, struggling to find proper housing, working a variety of jobs, and sending money to their parents until the family is finally reunited after Katrina's death. There is a lot to like about this book. The narrative is full of exciting action, and the characters are realistic to the time. Although the author presents a grim picture of the difficulties that new immigrants faced, she skillfully allows the characters' optimism and determination to dominate the story. Marisia is a plucky girl, with a boldness that helps her to survive. For example, on board ship, she disguises herself to gain access to the upper decks to steal food for her hungry companions in steerage. Stefan allies himself with those anxious to start a labor union, and through him, readers gain an understanding of the danger and difficulties that the newcomers encountered and how their efforts changed life in America for the better. Readers who enjoy the Dear America series or Joan Lowery Nixon's Ellis Island books should find this novel a welcome progression from those middle grade series.

Description from VOYA

The Other Side of the Hudson : A Jewish Immigrant Adventure

(The Do It Yourself Jewish Adventure)

By Kenneth Roseman
Set in 1850 as the very first large wave of Jews arrives in the United States. How will you survive? Where across America will you go?

Description from Publisher

Following a plot-your-own-story format, these short vignettes describe choices available to a male Jewish immigrant who arrives in New York City in 1851 from Neustadt, Germany. From there, readers can travel with him up the Hudson River to Albany, west to San Francisco, or south to New Orleans, with several stops in between. Roseman cleverly integrates historical figures, such as Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, Lazarus Straus, and Ulysses S. Grant, with events in American history. Most of the scenarios involve a development in American-Jewish life, either religious or social. Black-and-white archival photographs, maps, a glossary, and a bibliography of mostly adult titles increase the book's usefulness.

Description from School Library Journal

Ashes of Roses

By Mary Jane Auch
Auch (Journey to Nowhere) combines a classic immigration tale with the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in this spirited novel. The narrator, 16-year-old Rose Nolan, arrives at Ellis Island with her family, but right away they are beset by obstacles. Her baby brother is diagnosed with trachoma, and her father must take him back to Ireland; her uncle's family, while taking them in, makes it clear they are unwelcome. Rose finds work in a sweatshop and, after her mother, too, gives up on America, Rose rents a tiny room with her 12-year-old sister from the father of a union organizer, a girl named Gussie. High-minded Gussie helps Rose deal with her dishonest boss and finagle a job at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. There, Rose makes friends and begins to enjoy New York, but when the infamous fire breaks out, she finds herself trapped, along with all of her fellow employees (management locked the girls in each day); Rose's friends, including Gussie, are among the 146 fatalities. Fast pacing sweeps readers from the initial confusion of Ellis Island to the horrific fire, while Auch supplies vivid period detail and strong female characters to build toward a hopeful conclusion ("I was goin' to reach out and grab this new life in America with all my strength, because I was brought here for a purpose," says Rose). Dear America graduates will be hooked.

Description from Publishers Weekly

The harsh side of the Irish American immigration story is dramatized in this first-person narrative of Rose Nolan, 16, who is filled with hope when she comes with her family to New York City in 1911, but faces so much hardship and disappointment that she almost returns to the misery she left back in Limerick. Her parents do go back, and Auch shows clearly why, even as Rose and her younger sister, Maureen, insist on staying, despite the wrenching family parting and the girls' daily struggle for survival. This is, unfortunately, very much a step-by-step docunovel, and the research sometimes shows. But the facts are riveting, whether it's the inspection on Ellis Island (Rose's baby brother has trachoma so the officials won't let him in); the prejudice as well as the support the sisters get from other immigrants; or the unspeakable working conditions in the sweatshops. Rose finally gets a job at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, and the unforgettable climax of the story is her account of the tragic fire: her friends are among the 146 people who perish in the flames. They leave her with the drive to work for fair, safe working conditions, and she finds her courage and her place. Excellent supplementary reading for social studies classes and a good addition to women's history titles.

Description from Booklist

The Nolan family's dreams of prosperity in a new country are shattered when baby Joseph fails the medical exam at Ellis Island and must be taken back to Cork by his father. Though Da promises a quick return, Ma is miserable. Frustrated by her dependence on the unwilling hospitality of prosperous relatives, she gladly accepts money from her brother-in-law for herself and her three daughters to return home. Having few opportunities in Ireland, 16-year-old Rose rebels and she and 12-year-old Maureen are allowed to remain in New York to seek work and schooling. Rose finds them a room with a kindly Jewish family, and the landlord's labor unionist daughter, Gussie, gets her a position at the Triangle Waist Company. The teen feels especially happy one morning, wearing a dress in a new color called "ashes of roses" in anticipation of a nickelodeon outing with friends after work. Within hours, her clothing choice takes on a macabre appropriateness as she, Gussie, and Maureen, who also works there, fight for their lives in a fire still recalled as one of the worst industrial disasters in U.S. history. Fast-paced, populated by distinctive characters, and anchored in Auch's convincing sense of time and place, this title is a good choice for readers who like historical fiction.

Description from School Library Journal

The Tenement Writer: An Immigrant's Story

By Ben Sonder
The courage, commitment, and vision of individuals both famous and ordinary are celebrated through stories that reveal the rich, multicultural tapestry of the American experience. The texts, most of which incorporate material from primary sources, such as letters and journals, are based on historical fact. "A Matter of Conscience" and "A Place Called Heartbreak" are the most compelling of the solid, but not outstanding, books. Competent black-and-white drawings illustrate the selections.

Description from Horn Book

Annie Quinn in America

By Mical Schneider
Annie Quinn knows that a new life in America is her only chance. In 1847, the only sure way to survive the potato famine is to leave Ireland. With her younger brother Thomas, twelve-year-old Annie must leave her mother and home behind. She'll join her big sister Bridget, a maid in a New York mansion. At least Annie has her father's fiddle to play. But Annie's fiddle is stolen by smooth-talker Finnbarr O'Halloran as soon as she steps foot in New York. And Bridget likes being a lady's maid, but Annie's stuck polishing gleaming tabletops and washing perfectly clean steps under the housekeeper's eagle eye. She has it better off than Thomas, who sleeps in a cellar and works as a stable boy under the greedy Mr. Belzer. Then Bridget goes to Ohio, Thomas runs away, and Annie is fired! And Annie's adventures are only beginning...

Description from Publisher

Irish Americans seem so integral a part of America today that we tend to forget the days when the Irish were newcomers. Annie Quinn vividly reminds us that the Irish were once the people who did the jobs no one else wanted, the ones ridiculed, stereotyped, and discriminated against. Annie is only twelve but her father has already died in the famine and her mother is struggling to hold life together for the four young children still at home. When Annie's older sister sends money from America, Annie and her younger brother Tommie are shipped off alone to the new land. Her father's precious fiddle is stolen before Annie spends a single night on dry land. Letters from mother take months to arrive and share sad, painful details of desperate poverty. Her little brother's boss says the Irish are "lazy, reckless spendthrifts," so Tommie runs off and joins a Dickensian gang with an Irish Fagan at the helm. It is not America the beautiful. But Annie's spunk and determination win out, evil is ultimately punished, and the story concludes on a note of hope and optimism. The book reads quickly because there are so many adventures and mishaps; the characters and situations are very real; and the opportunities for discussion are almost endless in comparing this wave of Irish immigration with current immigrant experiences.

Description from Children's Literature

There's no debate when Annie and her brother get a chance to leave famine-ravaged Ireland in 1847 to live with their sister Bridget in New York. The youngsters brave the perilous journey and arrive at the bustling city ready to start anew. Bridget finds a place for them on the domestic staff of the Fairchild household, where she works as a maid, and the siblings look forward to the day when they can bring over the rest of the family. Then reality intervenes: a conniving thief who stole the children's baggage at dockside returns to menace them, and the household staff takes advantage of the younger Quinns, unbeknownst to both Bridget and the Fairchilds. Despite the difficulties, all ends well: plucky Annie triumphs. This well-done historical novel, rich in details about the potato famine and Irish life in mid-nineteenth-century New York, will grab readers with its action-packed plot and strong characterizations.

Description from Booklist

Lily and Miss Liberty

By Carla Stevens
It's 1885; the Statue of Liberty is coming, but can't be assembled until a pedestal has been built and paid for. Almost everyone in Miss Pearson's N.Y.C. class is contributing, but Lily can't find even the smallest job to raise money; and, anyway, her mother thinks it should go to the poor rather than to some statue. Then inspiration strikes: Lily will make cardboard crowns to sell. The timing is perfect, the crowns sell like hotcakes, and Lily even gets mentioned in Mr. Pulitzer's World. Later, she gives part of her earnings to an impoverished classmate who proudly adds the money to the Pedestal Fund. The author captures the excitement of the statue's arrival, while Lily's contacts with neighbors and local shopkeepers nicely evoke the flavor of old New York's close-knit ethnic communities. Following simple directions given at the end, modern readers can make their own crowns. Celebratory and well-done.

Description from Kirkus Reviews

Anxious to raise money to help pay for the pedestal that will hold the Statue of Liberty, young Lily Lafferty makes and sells crowns outside her New York City apartment. Stevens not only ably portrays the mix of emotions in 1885 as the city awaits the arrival of the statue but also offers a glimpse of the poverty of some of the city's immigrants.

Description from Horn Book

Lily Lafferty is excited because Miss Liberty is coming to America. The French are presenting this wonderful statue as a gift, and many people are raising money to help build her pedes tal. In hopes of raising her own contribution money, Lily makes and sells crowns resembling Miss Liberty's. She and her father believe that this statue is important because it will welcome immigrant families into the U. S. for many generations to come. This enthusiasm is set against a disgruntled attitude held by some, believing that instead, money should be raised to feed the poor. Through this argument, Lily realizes Miss Liberty's true symbolism--freedom for all, of thought and expression. It is difficult not to feel the excitement that New York City experiences through all of the pageantry surrounding the statue's anticipated arrival and unveiling. Pertinent facts surrounding her origin and arrival are woven into the text. This is a warm story of a girl who experiences something truly wonderful, illustrated with numerous soft black-and-white drawings that nicely capture the characters' expressions and the period. It's an excellent introduction to historical fiction.

Description from School Library Journal

Hannah's Journal :
The Story of an Immigrant Girl

(Young American Voices)

By Marissa Moss
As life in 1901 Lithuania grows more dangerous for Jewish people, Hannah's family seizes an opportunity to send Hannah to America with her cousin Esther. At age 10, insatiably curious Hannah is more courageous than 14-year-old Esther and must push her through each door that brings them closer to their new life. Along the way the girls encounter a young orphan boy, and together, the three withstand the grueling journey across the ocean in the steerage compartment of the ship. But even after they've laid eyes on the Statue of Liberty, they're still not home free. They spend almost a month on Ellis Island, waiting for their American sponsor to find them, dreading the possibility of being deported before they ever set foot on the mainland. Hannah records her experiences and childlike drawings in a journal her "Papashka" (father) gave her before she departed.

Like Marissa Moss's popular Amelia series, this handwritten, fictionalized journal of America's peak immigration years in the early 1900s is tremendously appealing to adventurers and anyone who can trace family ties to another country. Moss is the author of several other titles in the Young American Voices series (Emma's Journal: The Story of a Colonial Girl and Rachel's Journal: The Story of a Pioneer Girl ). Her skill in weaving personal tales with real historical information makes reading the journals an education and a delight.

Description from Amazon.com

In her third fictional diary, Moss tells the story of ten-year-old Hannah, a spunky and self-confident girl in a Lithuanian shtetl in 1901. Although Hannah loves her family dearly, she is thrilled when her Uncle Saul offers her a ticket to America. While her mother is torn between wanting her only daughter to have a better life or keeping her close at hand, a pogrom in the village tilts the scale and she is convinced to let Hannah go. In the journal that her father has given for her tenth birthday, Hannah chronicles her trip. Setting out with her 14-year-old cousin Esther, she realizes that she will have to be the leader of the pair; Esther, although older, is timid, fearful, and doesn't believe they will ever make it. Hannah manages to get them both onto the steamship, where they travel in steerage ("I think it should be called storage because we are packed together like potatoes in a bin"). It's not all misery, though; she blissfully describes her first taste of an orange (after being told that you don't eat the rind), and enjoys watching the first-class passengers in their finery. Finally the girls reach New York and, after several anxious weeks on Ellis Island, find themselves on New York's Lower East Side. "Other people from our shtetl live in the same rooms. . . . So although it's a strange new home, it's also cozy and familiar." Children will be fascinated by Hannah's tale, and perhaps amazed that she's allowed to undertake the trip on her own. Teachers will find the book useful when covering units on immigration, although they will also want to use other sources to illustrate the poverty, the abominable working conditions andthe harshness of immigrant life in this period. Moss's illustrations (purportedly drawn by Hannah and thus in a deliberately childish style) are charming and informative and the handwritten text on lined paper adds to the sense of authenticity. The subject of Jewish persecution and emigration is seldom treated on so young a level, but the youthful tone of the narrator presents exactly the right balance of fear and hope.

Description from Kirkus Reviews
Call Me Ruth
Call Me Ruth

By Marilyn Sachs
An eight-year-old Russian Jewish girl newly arrived in New York City in 1908 is torn between her mother's increasingly radical union involvement and her desire to embrace contemporary American ways.

Strudel Stories

By Joanne Rocklin
In this nostalgic collection of stories, three generations of strudel makers share personal histories with children of the next generation. These stories are presented as the secret ingredient to an excellent homemade strudel. In Sarah's kitchen, we hear tales of Eastern European Jewry involving a little boy who cheated death twice. In Bertie's kitchen, we hear about the immigration of a little girl who had the courage to turn her coat inside out when the feared Ellis Island medical inspector marked her with the dreaded chalk "X." Willy, a grandfather with a gift in the kitchen and a huge love for baseball, tells about the orphaned refugee boy accepted into his family after the Holocaust. Classroom teachers could use this book as a resource for an immigration unit. The stories are very sweet, like the pastry they are named for. Several segments discuss the mechanics of strudel making and depict children helping in the kitchen, waiting to be entertained by stories.

Description from Children's Literature

The Streets Are Paved With Gold

By Fran Weissenberg

Awards:
  • Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award

Deborah Gold chronicles her eighth-grade year in this poignant coming-of-age novel. Debbie's Jewish immigrant family lives simply and traditionally, but though the girl cherishes her heritage, she desperately wishes to be like the modern American children in her school. Debbie struggles to achieve a delicate balance as she confronts first love, new friendships and familial responsibility. She begins to understand the vital connections between her home life and the everchanging world outside. Authentic dialogue and precise details bring 1920s Brooklyn vividly to life, while Debbie's first person narration lends immediacy and emotion to her experiences. The integrity and generosity of the Gold family will impress readers young and old. Weissenberg provides a glossary of Yiddish terms so that no reader will feel excluded.

Description from Publishers Weekly

Silver Days

By Sonia Levitin
This sequel to Levitin's Journey to America, takes up exactly where the earlier book ended--in 1940, with the family reunited in New York City. In a first-person narration, Lisa, the middle daughter, tells the story of their "silver days'' from 1940 to 1943, conveying the strength and spirit that enabled the family to not only survive being uprooted from their comfortable home in Germany, but also to make a new life for themselves. Much of the humor in the book comes from Lisa's father, a hard-working, energetic, and optimistic man. The girls' mother is a strong-willed woman who is almost undone by the death of her mother, who chose to stay in Germany. Lisa is also strongly influenced by her beautiful and intelligent older sister and a lively, sensitive younger sister. A move to California leads to more disruption but ultimately results in more economic security and a chance for Lisa to study dance seriously again. Because of the episodic nature of the story, readers get to know these people well, experiencing their highs and lows, and in the end can only wish them well. Although this book is a sequel, it can be read independently without any difficulty.

Description from School Library Journal

The Magic Shell

By Nicholasa Mohr
A strongly upbeat chapter book about immigration shows the push and pull of living on both sides of the border. When his father gets a good job in New York City, Jaimie Ramos hates leaving his mountain village in the Dominican Republic. He can't get used to the cold in the new country; he can't speak English; he has no friends. But soon he settles in so well that he's reluctant to go back to the island for a visit. Then once he's there, he realizes how beautiful it is and how much it is part of him, and he's half-scared to go back to the U.S. There are occasional lyrical passages, but generally the writing is unexceptional. The characters are idealized: everyone in both countries is always nice. What raises this above the docunovel is that Mohr shows the richness of living in two cultures and also the loneliness and loss.

Description from Booklist

After he and his family immigrate to New York City, Jaime discovers that the conch shell he received from Tio Ernesto has magical powers. Whenever he feels homesick, the shell enables him to take dreamlike trips to his hometown in the Dominican Republic. The flat story predictably describes the experiences of a child adjusting to American life and is written in surprisingly trite prose.

Description from Horn Book

Jaime and his family move from the Dominican Republic when his father's new job takes them to New York City. As a going-away present, his great-uncle gives him a conch shell and tells the boy that listening to it will help him remember his village and friends. Jaime is unaccustomed to cold weather and heavy winter clothes, and he does not speak English. He thinks he will never make friends in his new home, and he often listens to the shell to remind him of Montana Verde. After he starts school, he makes some friends; by summer, he is so content that he is reluctant to return to the Dominican Republic for a visit. During his stay, he talks to his great-uncle about the shell and realizes that the magic was really within himself. Jaime is convincingly caught between two cultures but supported by believable friends and family in both locations. This upbeat story flows well with a good mixture of imagination and reality. None of the realism is overly harsh, though-no political oppression or poverty. However, the boy's loneliness and fear of a new situation ring true as legitimate childhood concerns

Description from School Library Journal




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