cover image Klara's New World

Klara's New World

Jeanette Winter. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $15 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-80626-4

Written in the first-person, this compelling, original tale of an immigrant family's journey from Sweden to America is aimed at independent readers rather than the usual picture book read-aloud crowd. The story unfolds through the eyes of eight-year-old Klara, and chronicles many of the hurdles to life in a new land. These include the initial, painful decision to leave Sweden, the arduous ocean crossing and steamboat and train trips to Minnesota, ending finally with the family clearing their land, building a sod house, and planting in time for winter. Winter ( Diego ; Follow the Drinking Gourd ), herself the daughter of Swedish immigrants, uses her artist's eye to zero in on telling details, such as the tiny coffin built for a baby who died at sea, and a bag of gentian seeds pressed into Klara's hand by her grandfather, who knows he'll never see her again. Winter's stylized, folk-art-inspired illustrations, rendered in her trademark palette of rich earthtones enlivened by shades of plum and blue, dramatically bring the story to life. An afterword gives a bit of historical background, making the book especially useful for those studying the 19th-century immigrant experience. Ages 7-12. (Sept.)