Gittel's Journey: An Ellis Island Story

illus. by Amy June Bates. 48p. Abrams. bibliog. glossary. photos. Feb. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781419727474.
RedReviewStarGr 2–5—"What if Mama's cousin Mendel doesn't like me?…What if English is too hard to learn? What if I never see Mama again?" Nine-year-old Gittel is alone on a ship to America after her mother's eye infection causes a health inspector to refuse the woman passage. Finding comfort in Basha, a favorite rag doll, Mama's candlesticks, and some children on board, Gittel finally steps foot on Ellis Island only to learn that the precious folded paper with cousin Mendel's address is watermarked and illegible. Not even knowing Mendel's last name, the girl feels that her situation is hopeless until a kindly Yiddish interpreter comes up with the perfect solution. Newman based the book on two true family stories. An author's note includes photos as well as a brief history of the approximate three million Eastern European Jews who fled the shtetls and pogroms in the early 1900s. A short glossary of Yiddish words and phrases and a bibliography are also appended. The book is beautifully designed and illustrated; blue endpapers feature prints of the ship approaching Lady Liberty, while the other pages are light brown with black printed borders or classical arches. The watercolor illustrations artfully capture an era and people, from their simple woolen clothes to their expressive faces.
VERDICT Pair this with Patricia Polacco's The Keeping Quilt for an historical look at early immigration.

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