Gittel’s Journey: An Ellis Island Story

Lesléa Newman, illus. by Amy June Bates. Abrams, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-4197-2747-4
Nine-year-old Gittel and her mother are immigrating from the Old Country to America, leaving behind friends and many cherished belongings (“Can’t we take Frieda with us?” Gittel asks. “We cannot bring a goat to America,” Mama says). But when they reach the boat, Mama is barred from boarding due to an eye infection, and she insists that Gittel continue without her. “Home is not safe for us,” Mama tells her tearful daughter. “You are going to America to have a better life.” Wearing a bright red kerchief, clutching the address of a cousin in New York City, and carrying Mama’s precious Shabbat candlesticks in her bundle, Gittel starts her journey to Ellis Island. Mixed-media images by Bates (The Big Umbrella), washed in yellows and browns and framed by woodblock motifs, give readers a vivid sense of the historical context while infusing the story with a timeless emotional immediacy. Newman (Ketzel, the Cat Who Composed) skillfully modulates her narration, capturing her protagonist’s feelings of excitement, loneliness, and fear. The ending, handled with both restraint and warmth, relies on one of those improbable twists of good fortune that define so many immigrant stories—and it’s based on a real event. Ages 5–8. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 10/29/2018
Release date: 02/05/2019
Genre: Children's
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