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ISLAND OF HOPE: The Story of Ellis Island and the Journey to America

Martin W. Sandler, Author . Scholastic Reference $18.95 (144p) ISBN 978-0-439-53082-8

This winning history of Ellis Island relies wherever possible on the voices and recollections of the immigrants themselves, giving a personal tone to the writing. Sandler (The Story of Photography ) ably captures the lure of America (both real and exaggerated), the hardship and sacrifice required for the journey, as well as the arduousness of navigating the circuitous and sometimes arbitrary bureaucracies of Ellis Island (including the handing back and forth of the currency required to enter, humorous stories behind some of the infamous name changes, and agonizing decisions about who to send back if a family needed to separate). He also describes the often disappointing and challenging experiences of immigrants once they landed in America, from tenements to child labor to westward expansion. As one immigrant recalled, "We thought the streets were paved with gold. Most weren't even paved. We paved them." Black-and-white photographs support the text and compelling sidebars delve more deeply into such topics as beloved New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, who worked at Ellis Island, mail-order brides and child labor laws. The narrative also emphasizes the role of children and teens, who often learned the language and customs more quickly than their parents and assumed great responsibility in families. Like Veronica Lawlor's I Was Dreaming to Come to America and Linda Granfield's 97 Orchard Street , this is an inspiring portrait of a seminal generation of Americans. Ages 8-up. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 03/22/2004
Release date: 03/01/2004
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