cover image When Jessie Came Across the Sea

When Jessie Came Across the Sea

Amy Hest. Candlewick Press (MA), $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-0094-5

With this tale of a 13-year-old girl's journey from a shtetl in Eastern Europe to America, Hest (Love You, Soldier) simply and faithfully holds a mirror to the milestone event for millions of turn-of-the-century immigrants. The graceful sentiment with which she conveys her story, however, renders the familiar plot newly gratifying. When the village rabbi gives Jessie a ticket to America, she dreads leaving the grandmother who has raised her since the death of her parents. But she bravely makes the voyage, and sews lace diligently for three years in New York until she saves enough money to send for her grandmother. Along the way she develops a talent for sewing bridal gowns, and before she takes leave of the reader, she becomes a bride herself. The elements of the plot fall neatly into place, and Hest communicates the heroine's courage and maturity convincingly and without fanfare. The subtle, emotional exposition is enriched by Lynch's (The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey) dramatically charged watercolor and gouache illustrations. The candlelit and sunlit compositions express the yearnings of the immigrants; their faces form a study in hope, loss and dignity. A compassionate, heartening view of an archetypal American experience. Ages 6-12. (Nov.)