cover image Sarah, Also Known as Hannah

Sarah, Also Known as Hannah

Lillian Hammer Ross. Albert Whitman & Company, $14.95 (63pp) ISBN 978-0-8075-7237-5

An undercurrent of pain and grief runs throughout this account of the author's mother's journey from the Ukraine to Ellis Island in 1910. The novel opens with a father's death in the tiny town of Lisec; his widow struggles to care for their four children. An uncle in America offers to sponsor the oldest child, 16-year-old Hannah, and mails tickets for her passage. Hannah, thrilled, prepares for her voyage, but at the last minute her mother decides it would be more prudent to use Hannah's passport to send Sarah, 12, instead. Both girls are devastated--Hannah because she has lost her ``golden opportunity,'' Sarah because she feels rejected by her mother. Sarah's sense of loss and her worries about her use of Hannah's passport complicate the already fraught journey to America. In showing the darker, more mournful aspects of a classic immigration story, Ross enriches the reader's understanding of those huddled masses yearning to breathe free. But she also infects the reader with Sarah's anxiety: a note at the beginning quotes a tearful Sarah at the age of 91 (``A very sad story. My mother sent me away''), and the absence of an epilogue creates the impression of lasting, unbearable sorrow. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)