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Older Kids / Young Adult:
Historical Fiction
Immigration and "The American Experience"


I have linked the books to Amazon.com, but I have linked certain items to other booksellers when Amazon didn't carry them.

As a warning, I have put up pictures of the book covers to give you somewhat an idea of the style of each book (I know, I know. "Don't judge a book by its cover") so the pages may load slowly.


Biblical Era | Middle Ages & Renaissance | Immigration & The American Experience | European History | Holocaust | Israel

Dreams in the Golden Country :
The Diary of Zipporah Feldman, a Jewish Immigrant Girl
(Dear America)
Zipporah Feldman, a 12-year-old Jewish immigrant from Russia, uses diary entries to chronicle her family's activities as they acclimate to life on New York City's Lower East Side. The hopes and dreams of a young girl are beautifully portrayed through Lasky's eloquent and engaging narrative. Readers are quickly drawn into Zipporah's world of traditional Jewish ritual and celebrations and will identify with the girl's desires to aspire to greatness in her new home. She absorbs the freedom of America, wanting to share her enthusiasm with her parents, encouraging her father to pursue his love of music and trying to persuade her mother to shed some of her strict religious ways. The story's historical significance is evident in the Feldman's arrival at Ellis Island and the subsequent procedures immigrants had to endure, and in the description of the factory fire in which Zipporah's friend dies, which is based on the famous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory of 1911. Characters are portrayed as strong individuals, and their motives are believable. Readers learn in an epilogue that Zipporah pursued her love for the theater and eventually rose to stardom. Archival photos, accompanied by a recipe for hamantaschen and the traditional Jewish song to welcome the Sabbath, bring the reality of the novel to light. A story of hope and of love for one's country.

Description from School Library Journal

One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping:
The Diary of Julie Weiss
(Dear America)
This special edition, a first in the Dear America series, vividly captures World War II in two disparate but dramatic cities, beginning in Vienna and continuing in New York. In Part One, twelve-year-old Julie Weiss's world crashes around her when Hitler's invasion of Vienna forces her way to flee to the only home she has ever known. Leaving her beloved father behind, she heads off to America in Part Two, and starts a new life in New York City with an extended family she has never met. Through this transition from war zone to safe haven Julie is feisty and brave, emotional and real.

Description from Publisher

Hannah's Journal :
The Story of an Immigrant Girl

(Young American Voices)

By Marissa Moss
As life in 1901 Lithuania grows more dangerous for Jewish people, Hannah's family seizes an opportunity to send Hannah to America with her cousin Esther. At age 10, insatiably curious Hannah is more courageous than 14-year-old Esther and must push her through each door that brings them closer to their new life. Along the way the girls encounter a young orphan boy, and together, the three withstand the grueling journey across the ocean in the steerage compartment of the ship. But even after they've laid eyes on the Statue of Liberty, they're still not home free. They spend almost a month on Ellis Island, waiting for their American sponsor to find them, dreading the possibility of being deported before they ever set foot on the mainland. Hannah records her experiences and childlike drawings in a journal her "Papashka" (father) gave her before she departed.

Like Marissa Moss's popular Amelia series, this handwritten, fictionalized journal of America's peak immigration years in the early 1900s is tremendously appealing to adventurers and anyone who can trace family ties to another country. Moss is the author of several other titles in the Young American Voices series (Emma's Journal: The Story of a Colonial Girl and Rachel's Journal: The Story of a Pioneer Girl ). Her skill in weaving personal tales with real historical information makes reading the journals an education and a delight.

Description from Amazon.com

In her third fictional diary, Moss tells the story of ten-year-old Hannah, a spunky and self-confident girl in a Lithuanian shtetl in 1901. Although Hannah loves her family dearly, she is thrilled when her Uncle Saul offers her a ticket to America. While her mother is torn between wanting her only daughter to have a better life or keeping her close at hand, a pogrom in the village tilts the scale and she is convinced to let Hannah go. In the journal that her father has given for her tenth birthday, Hannah chronicles her trip. Setting out with her 14-year-old cousin Esther, she realizes that she will have to be the leader of the pair; Esther, although older, is timid, fearful, and doesn't believe they will ever make it. Hannah manages to get them both onto the steamship, where they travel in steerage ("I think it should be called storage because we are packed together like potatoes in a bin"). It's not all misery, though; she blissfully describes her first taste of an orange (after being told that you don't eat the rind), and enjoys watching the first-class passengers in their finery. Finally the girls reach New York and, after several anxious weeks on Ellis Island, find themselves on New York's Lower East Side. "Other people from our shtetl live in the same rooms. . . . So although it's a strange new home, it's also cozy and familiar." Children will be fascinated by Hannah's tale, and perhaps amazed that she's allowed to undertake the trip on her own. Teachers will find the book useful when covering units on immigration, although they will also want to use other sources to illustrate the poverty, the abominable working conditions andthe harshness of immigrant life in this period. Moss's illustrations (purportedly drawn by Hannah and thus in a deliberately childish style) are charming and informative and the handwritten text on lined paper adds to the sense of authenticity. The subject of Jewish persecution and emigration is seldom treated on so young a level, but the youthful tone of the narrator presents exactly the right balance of fear and hope.

Description from Kirkus Reviews

Dave at Night

By Gail Carson Levine
"Gideon the Genius" and "Dave the Daredevil," their father called them: two Jewish boys growing up in 1920s New York, playing stickball and--in Dave's case--getting into trouble. But when their father dies, Dave finds himself separated from his older brother and thrust into the cold halls of the HHB, the Hebrew Home for Boys (which he later dubs the "Hopeless House of Beggars" and the "Hell Hole for Brats," among other things).

Eager to escape the strict rules, constant bullying, and tasteless gruel of the orphanage, the Daredevil hops the wall one night to explore the streets of Harlem. He hears what he thinks is someone--or something?--laughing, but traces the sound to a late-night trumpeter shuffling backward into a wild "rent party." And just as quickly as he'd found himself stuck in the HHB, Dave is immersed in yet another world--the swinging salons and speakeasies of the Harlem Renaissance. Cramped, crazy parties packed with the likes of Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen give Dave refuge from life at the orphanage and awaken his artistic bent. And Dave's new friends, among them a grandfatherly "gonif" ("somebody who fools people out of their money") and a young "colored" heiress who takes a shine to him, help turn things around for him at the HHB.

The skilled Gail Carson Levine, Newbery Medal-winning author of Ella Enchanted , clearly tells this tale from her heart, as the story is based on her own father's childhood spent in the real-life HOA (Hebrew Orphan Asylum).

Description from Amazon.com

A cross between Oliver Twist and a fairy tale, this charming story set on the edge of Harlem in 1926 features feisty troublemaker Dave. His father has died; neither his stepmother nor his poor, immigrant relatives feel they can support him. Thus, he is sent to the Hebrew Home for Boys, known by its "inmates" as the "Hell Hole for Brats," and is stripped of all of his possessions, most importantly an exquisite Noah's Ark that was carved by his father. Most of the adults Dave encounters are petty and brutal. He forms an alliance with the other "elevens" but vows to escape as soon as he recovers his carving. He sneaks out at night, and the sound of a "laughing trumpet" lures him to a nearby building where a dollar bill, a veritable fortune, wafts down from a window. He meets Solomon Gruber, a fortune teller, who makes Dave an unofficial grandson and whisks him off the streets into a party where he meets Irma Lee, a young black heiress whose mother runs salons for artists, authors, and musicians of the Harlem Renaissance. This chance encounter proves to be the boy's ultimate salvation. As in all fairy tales, characters are clearly good or evil, and Dave's story ends almost happily ever after. The magic comes from Levine's language and characterization. This novel will provide inspiration for all children while offering a unique view of a culturally diverse New York City. Readers will celebrate life with Dave and will recognize that fortitude and chutzpah are keys to his success, with a generous helping of good luck and good friends thrown in for good measure.

Description from School Library Journal

All-Of-A-Kind Family
There's something to be said for a book that makes you wish you'd been part of a poor immigrant family living in New York's lower east side on the eve of World War I. Sydney Taylor's time-honored classic does just that. Life is rich for the five mischievous girls in the family. They find adventure in visiting the library, going to market with Mama, even dusting the front room.

Young readers who have never shared a bedroom with four siblings, with no television in sight, will vicariously experience the simple, old-fashioned pleasures of talk, make-believe, and pilfered penny candy. The family's Jewish faith strengthens their ties to each other, while providing still more excitement and opportunity for mischief. Readers unfamiliar with Judaism will learn with the girls during each beautifully depicted holiday. This lively family, subject of four more "all-of-a- kind" books, is full of unique characters, all deftly illustrated by Helen John. Taylor based the stories on her own childhood family, and the true-life quality of her writing gives this classic its page-turning appeal.

Description from Amazon.com

More All of a Kind Family
Sydney Taylor grew up among immigrant families on New York City's Lower East Side prior to World War I and wrote the All-of-a-Kind Family stories for her daughter. Based on her family and childhood, these charming books capture the everyday life of a home with little money but lots of love and good times to share. Each book shares the ups and downs in the lives of this special family, through the eyes of Ella, Charlotte, Henny, Sarah, Gertie, and their little brother Charlie.

Description from Publisher

All of a Kind Family Downtown
Sydney Taylor grew up among immigrant families on New York City's Lower East Side prior to World War I and wrote the All-of-a-Kind Family stories for her daughter. Based on her family and childhood, these charming books capture the everyday life of a home with little money but lots of love and good times to share. Each book shares the ups and downs in the lives of this special family, through the eyes of Ella, Charlotte, Henny, Sarah, Gertie, and their little brother Charlie.

Description from Publisher

Ella of All-Of-A-Kind Family
World War I has ended, and Ella, the oldest of the five sisters, who dreams of singing and dancing in the theater, is discovered by a Broadway talent scout. It seems that she will have her chance at a theatrical career after all, starting in vaudeville. But her thoughts are also on Jules, just returned from the War, and marriage. Once again a loving family provides the support needed to make the right decision.

Description from Publisher

The Chosen
A Reader's Catalog Selection: The 40,000+ best books in print

Few stories offer more warmth, wisdom, or generosity than this tale of two boys, their fathers, their friendship, and the chaotic times in which they live. Though on the surface it explores religious faith--the intellectually committed as well as the passionately observant--the struggles addressed in The Chosen are familiar to families of all faiths and in all nations.

In 1940s Brooklyn, New York, an accident throws Reuven Malther and Danny Saunders together. Despite their differences (Reuven is a secular Jew with an intellectual, Zionist father; Danny is the brilliant son and rightful heir to a Hasidic rebbe), the young men form a deep, if unlikely, friendship. Together they negotiate adolescence, family conflicts, the crisis of faith engendered when Holocaust stories begin to emerge in the U.S., loss, love, and the journey to adulthood. The intellectual and spiritual clashes between fathers, between each son and his own father, and between the two young men, provide a unique backdrop for this exploration of fathers, sons, faith, loyalty, and, ultimately, the power of love. (This is not a conventional children's book, although it will move any wise child age 12 or older, and often appears on summer reading lists for high school students.)

Description from Amazon.com

The Promise
A Reader's Catalog Selection: The 40,000+ best books in print

"A superb mirror of a place, a time, and a group of people who capture our immediate interest and hold it tightly." THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER

Young Reuven Malter is unsure of himself and his place in life. An unconventional scholar, he struggles for recognition from his teachers. With his old friend Danny Saunders--who himself had abandoned the legacy as the chosen heir to his father's rabbinical dynasty for the uncertain life of a healer--Reuvan battles to save a sensitive boy imprisoned by his genius and rage. Painfully, triumphantly, Reuven's understanding of himself, though the boy change, as he starts to aproach the peace he has long sought....

Description from Publisher

The Streets Are Paved With Gold
Awards:
Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award

Deborah Gold chronicles her eighth-grade year in this poignant coming-of-age novel. Debbie's Jewish immigrant family lives simply and traditionally, but though the girl cherishes her heritage, she desperately wishes to be like the modern American children in her school. Debbie struggles to achieve a delicate balance as she confronts first love, new friendships and familial responsibility. She begins to understand the vital connections between her home life and the everchanging world outside. Authentic dialogue and precise details bring 1920s Brooklyn vividly to life, while Debbie's first person narration lends immediacy and emotion to her experiences. The integrity and generosity of the Gold family will impress readers young and old. Weissenberg provides a glossary of Yiddish terms so that no reader will feel excluded.

Description from Publishers Weekly

Good Night, Maman

By Norma Fox Mazer
Karin Levi's world of family, school, and friends is torn apart when the German army occupies Paris in June of 1940. Karin and her brother, Marc, like Jews all over Europe, find themselves on the run, seeking safety wherever they can find it. When Marc obtains two coveted places aboard a ship bound for the United States, Karin knows that crossing the ocean means she may never see her beloved parents again. Yet she and Marc have little choice if they are to survive. Karin's unforgettable story—revealing the little-known world of a handful of European refugees in World War II America—tells of survival, of growing up, and of love's ability to endure even the most extraordinary circumstances.

Description from Publisher

A touching novel that begins in 1940 and ends in 1945. Mazer follows 12-year-old Karin Levi and her experiences first as a hidden Jewish child in France, next as a traveling refugee, and, finally, as an inmate in the displaced persons camp in Oswego, NY. After Karin, her mother, and older brother leave France, they stay with a kind man in Italy. When it becomes clear that they must flee, the girl's mother is too ill to continue, and the two siblings must leave her behind. Throughout the book, the child deals with her feelings of loss by writing her mother letters. Mazer captures the refugee experience as Karin travels from place to place in constant fear with no sense of belonging, until she finally settles in at Oswego. Although the prose occasionally becomes strained and even saccharine, such as when the girl refers to her family as her "beloveds," for the most part, Karin's voice is realistic. Despite everything she has been through, she has her moments of petty jealousy and preteen difficulties. However, when her brother finally tells her that their mother did not survive, she manages to overcome her grief and look to the future when they will live with their father's aunt in California. Libraries looking to expand the scope of their Holocaust literature will find this book a welcome addition.

Description from School Library Journal

A Time of Angels

By Karen Hesse
Hannah and her sisters live in Boston with Tanta Rose and stern Vashti, awaiting their parents' return from a Europe embroiled in World War I. An influenza epidemic sweeps through the city, killing thousands including Tanta Rose. As Hannah is leaving town, she comes down with the flu and is helped by a mysterious girl with violet eyes. Hannah makes a slow recovery in Brattleboro, Vermont, cared for by an old farmer named Klaus, whose German heritage has made him suspect in the town. Hesse's meticulous re-creation of time and place (substantiated by an author's note) gets the novel off to a very slow start but lends an authentic feel to the story, despite some incidents that seem added merely for historical flavor. Her characters are also richly drawn, especially Klaus and Vashti, and there's a ring of truth to Hannah's being torn between her life in Vermont and her life in the city.

Description from Booklist

This magical book tells the story of Hannah Gold, a young Russian-American Jewish girl who lives in Boston with her two sisters, her great-aunt, and a family friend during World War I. Their mother was trapped in Russia by the Bolshevik Revolution and their father enlisted in the U.S. Army. As they struggle to make ends meet, Hannah longs for the time when her parents will come back and lies awake at night waiting. On some nights, she sees angels in the sky. When a lethal flu epidemic hits Boston, Tanta Rosa and Hannah's sisters fall ill. When Tanta Rosa dies, their family friend Vashti fears for Hannah's life and sends her away. Hannah is helped at the train station by a young girl with violet eyes. After getting sick on the train, Hannah is taken to a Red Cross hospital where an elderly German man named Klaus Gerhart takes her under his wing. Through her new "Uncle" Klaus, she discovers that there are humans on all sides of the war with family just like her father. When she is well enough to travel, the young girl with violet eyes returns to take her home and Hannah realizes the girl is actually an angel. This touching novel provides a realistic glimpse of the World War I era and explores the development of relationships between friends and family in ethnically diverse neighborhoods.

Description from Children's Literature

A warm, personal novel set in Boston during 1918. Hannah Gold, 14, and her two sisters live with their Tanta Rose while their parents are trapped in Russia because of the war. Although life is not easy, Tanta Rose provides for the girls as best she can. Rose's companion Vashti, however, feels that the girls are an intrusion. When the deadly influenza epidemic ravishes the city, Hannah's world is turned upside-down. Driven away by Vashti after Rose's death, the feverish young woman is guided to safety by a beautiful, ethereal girl (actually, an angel) who saved her life once before. She is nursed back to health on a Vermont farm by an old man whose strength and wisdom give her the courage to go back to Boston and to make peace with Vashti. Aspects of Jewish culture are nicely incorporated into the story, as are period details. However, some plot elements may cause confusion. The angel, portrayed as a guiding force instead of a fully developed character, interacts with Hannah on an almost subconscious level. Also, some of Hannah's actions do not seem realistic. Shortcomings aside, Hesse offers readers much to enjoy, analyze, and consider in this piece of historical fiction with a mystical bent.

Description from School Library Journal

Speed of Light
In Montgomery, Alabama, in 1956, there's a bus boycott, but in 11-year-old Audrey's small mill town in the mountains of Virginia, segregation is never challenged. Then Mr. Caldwell tries to become the town's first black policeman, Audrey's father supports the integration, and Audrey and her family are verbally and physically attacked as Jews "trying to help that nigger." Many Jews in the community wish Audrey's dad would stop making trouble, but she supports her dad, even after the racists attack her home and hurt her mother. Central to the story is the brooding presence in Audrey's home of her distant cousin Tante, an Auschwitz survivor. Through Tante's personal testimony, Audrey learns about the Holocaust, and she makes the connections to slavery and its bitter aftermath in segregation. The dramatic confrontations and the issues will move readers. In a quiet climactic scene, Audrey and her black friend spontaneously integrate the town bus when Audrey offers him her seat.

Description from Booklist

Winner of Sydney Taylor Book Award (Association of Jewish Libraries)
Letters from Rifka
Letters from Rifka
Twelve-year-old Rifka's journey from a Jewish community in the Ukraine to Ellis Island is anything but smooth sailing. Modeled on the author's great-aunt, Rifka surmounts one obstacle after another in this riveting novel. First she outwits a band of Russian soldiers, enabling her family to escape to Poland. There the family is struck with typhus. Everyone recovers, but Rifka catches ringworm on the next stage of the journey -- and is denied passage to America ("If the child arrives . . . with this disease," explains the steamship's doctor, "the Americans will turn her around and send her right back to Poland"). Rifka's family must leave without her, and she is billeted in Belgium for an agreeable if lengthy recovery. Further trials, including a deadly storm at sea and a quarantine, do not faze this resourceful girl. Told in the form of "letters" written by Rifka in the margins of a volume of Pushkin's verse and addressed to a Russian relative, Hesse's vivacious tale colorfully and convincingly refreshes the immigrant experience.

Description from Publisher Weekly

Brooklyn Doesn't Rhyme
A Newbery Medal-winning author returns to early Americana. Eleven-year-old Rosey is worried about her school writing assignment. How can she write interestingly about her ordinary life in Brooklyn. As Rosey writes her stories, a vivid and heart-touching picture emerges of life in a Jewish-American community in the early years of the 20th century.

Description from Publisher

Land of Hope
In the first book of the Ellis Island series, 15-year-old Rebekah Levinsky escapes persecution against Jews in Russia and flees with her family to join Uncle Avir in New York City. Few of the family's belongings can be brought on the treacherous voyage, and Rebekah misses her best friend and the home she leaves behind. Even so, she adapts quickly to life on board the ship and finds friends. Her arduous journey is vividly described; her friendships and fleeting shipboard romance are less convincing. When Rebekah's grandfather is denied entry into the U.S. because he is lame, the family is devastated. They are also unprepared for the cramped living quarters of their new home and the long hours they must work in the sweat shop to survive in the new land. Despite the difficulties, Rebekah is still granted her one wish--to go to school. Nixon's careful rendering of life for immigrants in the early 1900s is realistically harsh yet hopeful, and teenagers will absorb a strong sense of the times as they read Rebekah's engrossing story.

Description from Booklist

Two Cents and a Milk Bottle
Twelve-year-old Leely Dorman has a big problem. She knows the right thing to do, but getting it done seems impossible. How can Leely, the child of Russian immigrants living in Brooklyn during the Great Depression, find the money to pay back a debt to her friend-especially when the Dorman family can barely afford to put food on the table for themselves? In this charming first novel, author Lee Chai'ah Batterman introduces readers to Leely, her brainy fifteen-year-old sister Evy, and Arnie, her tag-along brother, as they face a new neighborhood, a new school and new friends. Over the course of the novel, Leely becomes a faithful friend, an entrepreneur and the first girl in the neighborhood to study to become a Bat Mitzvah. The contrast of Leely's Jewish background and her best friend Francy's Italian heritage adds an especially colorful twist to their sweet friendship.

But it is Leely's moral dilemma-and her poignant and often humorous efforts to resolve it-that draws readers into this beautifully written tale of adolescent tribulations and family cohesiveness.

There is a life lesson to be learned in every chapter of Two Cents and a Milk Bottle, from developing humane values and intercultural friendships to confronting sickness and death. And Leely proves herself a wonderfully capable teacher for young adults and their parents alike.

Description from Publisher

Fitting in By Sharon Kirsh
Molly, a young Jewish girl growing up in the early sixties, learns about life through trial and error, confronts anti-Semitism at school and at home.

Description from Publisher

Independence Avenue
This Jewish immigration story set in 1907 has a resourceful and engaging hero, an unusual setting, and enough plot and action to sustain reader interest. Elias Cherevnosky, 14, accompanies his aging, sickly Hebrew teacher from Russia to Galveston, Texas in exchange for free passage. When they dock, the man is found to have traucoma, grounds for automatic deportation, and Elias decides to remain in the United States. Through a series of coincidences, and some quick thinking and fast talking, he finds himself in Kansas City, working in a department store as a janitor. This is a well-textured story with a variety of subplots and relevant themes. Elias develops a shy romantic interest in his boss's daughter, which provokes resentment on the part of the girl's aunt, who doesn't like the idea of an immigrant getting too close to her family. The fear of pogroms in Russia that threaten his remaining family is a real one. Most readers will identify with the adolescent anxieties described. The main characters are sensitive, likable, real people. This story can be highly recommended both to general readers and to those with that perennial historical-novel assignment.

Description from School Library Journal

Melting Pot :
An Adventure in New York

(The Do-It-Yourself Jewish Adventure Series)
As a young Jewish immigrant to New York from Russia at the turn of the century, the reader must make decisions that could mean success or failure as he tries to establish himself in his new country.

Description from the Publisher

The Other Side of the Hudson : A Jewish Immigrant Adventure
(The Do It Yourself Jewish Adventure)
Following a plot-your-own-story format, these short vignettes describe choices available to a male Jewish immigrant who arrives in New York City in 1851 from Neustadt, Germany. From there, readers can travel with him up the Hudson River to Albany, west to San Francisco, or south to New Orleans, with several stops in between. Roseman cleverly integrates historical figures, such as Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, Lazarus Straus, and Ulysses S. Grant, with events in American history. Most of the scenarios involve a development in American-Jewish life, either religious or social. Black-and-white archival photographs, maps, a glossary, and a bibliography of mostly adult titles increase the book's usefulness.

Description from School Library Journal

Journey to America

By Sonia Levitin
It was 1938, and something terrible was happening in Germany. Suddenly, there were more and more restrictions for the Jews: yellow stars they had to wear, schools they could not attend, things they were forbidden to do. The Nazis were in power. And Lisa Platt was scared.

Her father knew they had to escape, and he left for America in the middle of the night. He promised to send for Lisa, her mother, and her two sisters when there was enough money. Until then, they were to live in Switzerland. And so they did, waiting, in hardship none of them could ever have imagined.

Description from Publisher

Silver Days

By Sonia Levitin
This sequel to Levitin's Journey to America, takes up exactly where the earlier book ended--in 1940, with the family reunited in New York City. In a first-person narration, Lisa, the middle daughter, tells the story of their "silver days'' from 1940 to 1943, conveying the strength and spirit that enabled the family to not only survive being uprooted from their comfortable home in Germany, but also to make a new life for themselves. Much of the humor in the book comes from Lisa's father, a hard-working, energetic, and optimistic man. The girls' mother is a strong-willed woman who is almost undone by the death of her mother, who chose to stay in Germany. Lisa is also strongly influenced by her beautiful and intelligent older sister and a lively, sensitive younger sister. A move to California leads to more disruption but ultimately results in more economic security and a chance for Lisa to study dance seriously again. Because of the episodic nature of the story, readers get to know these people well, experiencing their highs and lows, and in the end can only wish them well. Although this book is a sequel, it can be read independently without any difficulty.

Description from School Library Journal

Annie's Promise

By Sonia Levitin
The end of World War II forms the backdrop for this third book about the Platt family. The chronicle began with Journey to America, which told of the family's escape from Nazi Germany. In Silver Days, the middle daughter, Lisa, describes the family's difficulties in assimilating into American life. Here Annie, 13, continues their tale in a realistic, honest coming-of-age story. Readers will be immediately drawn to this likable heroine whose sensitivity and intelligence are keenly felt. Levitin juxtaposes the family's problems with Annie's need to become more independent and "American.'' When a school guidance counselor offers her the chance to go to a Quaker summer camp, she is thrilled, but she worries that her parents will not let her go. To her surprise, they agree. After normal newcomer's jitters and homesickness, she becomes a star camper and befriends a black girl whose background is totally different from her own. Annie's candor throughout is refreshing, and though some things do work out happily for her, there are frustrations, disappointments, and disillusionments as well. A novel that promises and delivers.

Description from School Library Journal

The Platt family, driven from their home in Germany by WWII, struggles to adapt to their new life as Americans. For 12-year-old Annie, there's the additional challenge of establishing her independence from her old-fashioned parents. When Annie is invited to attend a summer camp in the California mountains, it's a chance for her to find her own identity--and to discover some surprising strengths and flaws in herself and in her family.

Description from Publisher

{Annie} is a tough-minded and highly likable heroine; perhaps the most American of the Platt sisters. . . . She must absorb American values and those of the Quaker camp, where she finds new strengths and interests, and reconcile them with her parents' hopes, rules, restrictions and expectations. Sonia Levitin offers involvement with a complicated and beautifully evoked family, and 'Annie's Promise' does not shirk the difficult and sometimes harsh nature of family connections or the ambiguities of history.

Description from New York Times Book Review

Look to the Hills
At 15, Sally Gottesman, a Jewish girl growing up in Colorado in the 1880s, meets Daniel Rabinowitz, a poor Russian immigrant. He has arrived in Denver with his terminally ill mother, who is under the care of Sally's physician father. At the woman's deathbed with her father, Sally hears a surprising exchange between Daniel and his mother, in which he intimates that Sally, whom he scarcely knows, is his shayne maydel (Yiddish for beautiful girl). Although Sally is already involved with a wealthy young man considered a "good catch," she gradually comes to believe that Daniel is a true soul mate and eventually breaks off with the other man, declares her love to Daniel, and promises to wait for him to complete medical school while she finishes her own schooling.

The cultural details of the romance add rich texture. The novel's strength lies in its likable characters, especially Sally--a charming, intelligent girl.

Description from Booklist

The Rose Horse
It's 1909 in New York and Lily's little sister, Rose, is born prematurely. Rose and her mother are sent to Dreamland on Coney Island, to a world-famous clinic that will allow the child to be cared for properly. While they are there, Lily's mother finds that she can nurse more than her own child, and literally saves at least one tiny baby's life. And Lily gets to explore Coney Island and ride on the beautiful palomino her uncle has created. To help keep track of the six weeks until her mother comes home, Lily's aunt uses a Jewish calendar, brought from Russia. Some discussion of Jewish customs and the pogroms that forced the family to leave Kishinev add to the drama. This is a fascinating look at a vanished time and place.

Description from Children's Literature

Star of Luis

By Marc Talbert
Luis's life changes dramatically when his father joins the army after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the boy and his mother move from L.A. to New Mexico to be with her dying father. In the early pages, the author notes the casual racism of the times, especially toward Asians. As this motif develops, it becomes central to the tale-Luis, a practicing Catholic, is surprised to learn that his mother's family are Jewish descendants of those who outwardly converted to Catholicism in Spain during the 1400s but retained some of their ancestral beliefs and customs. He comes to love the slower, more interrelated ways of Las Manos, especially as-for the first time in his life-he is surrounded by his extended family. After his grandfather dies, his mother decides to return to L.A., and Luis takes back with him his newfound confidence and expanded sense of self; renews his friendships with Stan, a Jewish boy, and Eduardo, who is almost belligerently Hispanic; and decides to explore his heritage. If `40s L.A. does not seem greatly removed from today, Las Manos certainly does-even Luis is surprised by the musty smell of an old adobe house and a stroll to the outhouse in the evening. The occasional, mild profanities are appropriate indicators of the boys' personalities, and Luis is a complex and well-rounded character. Because of the author's dexterous touch, this novel is both leisurely and fast paced.

Description from School Library Journal

Escaping to America :
A True Story
In an ancient forest near their home, Ida and Sammy picked wild berries for breakfast and wild mushrooms for soup. But a terrible war was being waged throughout their land. Ida and Sammy and baby Ruthie were in great danger. In 1921, the children's mother and father decided they all must flee. Despite the risks of travel, they knew that their best hope for a new life lay far away in America.

This intensely personal yet universal story tells vividly of the losses suffered and hopes that triumphed. With great variety, the pictures reflect a full range of changing emotions. Accurate in every detail, they portray the times in a way that gives readers the unforgettable sense of being present during the struggle, and witnessing one family's enduring spirit.

Description from Publisher

In this outstanding addition to the growing body of immigrant stories, the author tells why and how her Jewish grandparents and their children left Poland in 1921 for a new life in America. The lively, compelling text and the inviting, colorful illustrations (with especially vibrant blues) perfectly capture the beauty of the once-peaceful town; the dangers as war enveloped the land; the excitement of the trip to America; and, finally, the pure joy upon arriving and meeting family already here. In varied, striking layouts, the illustrations burst forth onto white borders, inviting readers to search out details. Schanzer has provided an absorbing, personal account of the journey of her own family, but the experiences-the fears, sufferings, losses, and hopes for a better life-mirror what many of today's immigrants have endured, making this book timeless.

Description from School Library Journal

Two Suns in the Sky

By Miriam Bat-Ami
Star-crossed lovers are the stuff of romantic dreams, but in Two Suns in the Sky Miriam Bat-Ami pursues this theme in an unlikely setting: the grim refugee camp at Oswego, New York, during World War II. Chris Cook, 15, is fed up with the boring town of Oswego but is fascinated by the exotic strangers living so close by. She and her friends sneak into the camp where she meets Adam Bornstein, a Yugoslavian Jew. "For stony limits cannot hold love out," says Shakespeare, and neither can the quarantine fences around the Emergency Refugee Shelter. The two fall passionately in love, in spite of their differences of language and religion--and the angry resistance of Chris's father to anything "foreign." Their voices, as distinctly different as their cultures, alternate in telling the story of their ill-fated attraction.

Miriam Bat-Ami, like Norma Fox Mazer in Good Night, Maman, has drawn on a forgotten piece of American history for her setting: the Emergency Refugee Shelter, the U.S. government's sole attempt to rescue Jews fleeing Hitler's persecution. Bat-Ami captures the collision of cultures in not only the poignant love story, but in the complex emotions of the townspeople, whose good will is tempered by a naive suspicion of strangers, and in the mixed feelings of the refugees themselves, whose gratitude for a place of warmth and shelter is dimmed by their frustration at finding themselves corralled behind barbed wire in the supposed land of the free. Quotations from former residents of the camp and a substantial Author's Note add to the strong authenticity of this intriguing novel.

Description from Amazon.com

During World War II, a group of European refugees are sent to Oswego, NY. The story is told through the eyes of Adam Bornstein, a 15-year-old Jewish boy from Croatia; and Chris Cook, a 15-year-old Catholic Irish-American girl. Adam is, of course, confused by the new country, but he's also achieved a certain wariness and street smarts through his experiences. Chris, on the other hand, is a naive and bored teenager for whom the war is mostly a distant abstraction. The young people come alive through the author's effective, alternating first-person narrations through which readers gain a sense not only of the characters' feelings, but the feelings of the two different communities as well. Eventually, Chris and Adam are attracted to one another, which leads to hands groping under sweaters and two socks removed. Chris's father reacts negatively to this relationship and kicks his daughter out of the house. This leads the teens to take a day trip to New York City (upon her return, Chris is forgiven). However, the love story is really secondary to the story of two communities adjusting to one another: the refugees living in barracks must learn about Americans; the residents of Oswego must learn to live with the refugees in their midst. These trials and adjustments are particularly well conveyed. This is a fine novel based, in part, on real-life incidents now more than 50 years passed, but still relevant today

Description from School Library Journal

In the fall of 1944, approximately one thousand refugees from liberated Italy were brought to a refugee shelter set up by the U.S. government at Fort Ontario in Oswego, New York; Miriam Bat-Ami has used this little known camp as the basis for a thought-provoking novel. She tells her story in two voices: that of Adam Bornstein, a fifteen-year-old refugee from Zagreb, Yugoslavia; and Christine Cook, a fifteen-year-old resident of Oswego. The two story lines begin to intertwine, and we are witness to Chris's inner awakenings as she grapples with the problems her growing attachment to Adam brings, especially as they come into contact with her Catholic upbringing and her father's strong prejudice against the refugees. Adam's story — his family's escape, his journey to America with his mother and younger sister, his life in the camp, and his feelings for Chris- has the stronger momentum. His relationship with his younger sister Mira is particularly poignant as he keeps alive her special memories of their father. The relationship between the two young people moves events towards a mutual understanding of who they are, what they mean to each other, and what they want in a postwar world. Bat-Ami's story is most timely, reflecting not only what is happening now in many places in the world, but also America's attitude towards immigrants and refugees. Adam brings home the crux of America's issue with refugees when he says, "To many of you we are not people...we are a problem you have not solved." Never didactic, Bat-Ami uses her story to probe this issue with sensitivity and depth.

Description from Horn Book

Memories of Clason Point
Seen through a mist of time, tears, and love during her father's funeral, Sonnenfeld remembers the good, the bad, and the downright funny that took place in her ethnically mixed Bronx neighborhood during the Depression. The bright daughter of a deaf mother and a risk-taking, but erudite father, she finds herself in the role of her father's confidant and her mother's protector. Having escaped the persecution directed toward Jews in Hungary and sundry dismal medical diagnoses, Mr. Kellerman is optimistic and caring. Determined to feed and house lost animals, homeless men, singularly ungracious relatives, as well as his own family, he turns to distilling whiskey in his basement when hard times arrive. After the police come to make arrests, they become sympathetic friends and the judge becomes a new customer. When their home is foreclosed, Mr. Kellerman "borrows" another house from the bank, utilizes the city marshal as a mover, and, in a running battle of wits, "liberates" some gas and electricity. Eventually, however, there is a heavy price to pay, and Kelly learns that it is her fragile mother who holds the family together. Sonnenfeld's characters are enticing. With an entertaining and unerring eye for authentic detail, the author colors the period to re-create an animated reality. Pair this poignant urban autobiography with a piece of rural fiction for an interesting class project.

Description from School Library Journal

Dear Hope ... Love, Grandma
Letters between a grandmother and granddaughter describe Jewish life in St. Louis at the beginning of the 20th century.

Fire! :
The Beginnings of the Labor Movement
(Once upon America)

by Barbara Diamond Goldin
The 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire in New York is seen through the eyes of Rosie, 11. The daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants, she wishes she could quit school and work in the factory like her older sister, whose descriptions of the brutal and dangerous working conditions do little to quell Rosie's desire. The sudden and disastrous fire that rips through the factory killing 146 workers opens her eyes, both to the labor movement's need to seize the opportunity for change, and to her own need to stay in school. Goldin details, with simplicity, the hardships of daily life in the Lower East Side garment district without becoming maudlin or melodramatic. Rosie and her friends will appeal to readers looking for a good story as well as to those needing information on the era. A short addendum gives more information on the fire and its aftermath, although nothing is footnoted or documented. Atmospheric black-and-white drawings punctuate the chapters. Students needing more traditional re search materials can try Zachary Kent's The Story of the Triangle Factory Fire, which includes numerous photographs, or John Flagler's The Labor Movement in the United States, aimed at a slightly older audience, which chronicles the rise and current decline of labor unions in general.

Description from School Library Journal

Faraway Summer

By Johanna Hurwitz
In 1910, a 12-year-old Jewish girl from New York's Lower East Side spends two weeks with a Vermont family through the Fresh Air Fund. Dossi, short for Hadassah, lives in a tenement room with her older sister and knows only the sights and smells of her crowded community. She takes two library books with her on the long train journey to help dispel her fears, but finds that her sponsors are warm and sharing people. Each experience on the Meades' farm is new for Dossi: the size of cows, the wonder of fireflies in the night, and the quantity of food on the table. There are mild cultural differences. The Vermonters have never seen a Jew and Dossi, although non-observant, will not eat pork or mix meat and milk products. Still, she becomes friends with the two girls in the family and helps to save a neighbor's livestock when a barn catches fire. Told through Dossi's journal entries, this is a pleasant story. It has a happy ending and the added interest of an actual historical person, Wilson Alwyn Bentley, who first photographed snowflakes.

Description from School Library Journal

Berchick
Homesteading in Wyoming in the early 1900's, a Jewish mother develops an unusual relationship with a colt she adopts named Berchick.

Description from Publisher

Strudel Stories
In this nostalgic collection of stories, three generations of strudel makers share personal histories with children of the next generation. These stories are presented as the secret ingredient to an excellent homemade strudel. In Sarah's kitchen, we hear tales of Eastern European Jewry involving a little boy who cheated death twice. In Bertie's kitchen, we hear about the immigration of a little girl who had the courage to turn her coat inside out when the feared Ellis Island medical inspector marked her with the dreaded chalk "X." Willy, a grandfather with a gift in the kitchen and a huge love for baseball, tells about the orphaned refugee boy accepted into his family after the Holocaust. Classroom teachers could use this book as a resource for an immigration unit. The stories are very sweet, like the pastry they are named for. Several segments discuss the mechanics of strudel making and depict children helping in the kitchen, waiting to be entertained by stories.

Description from Children's Literature

Marven of the Great North Woods
In her picture book, the author tells a true story. Sent to the Great North Woods of Minnesota to protect him from the 1918-19 influenza epidemic, young Marven Lasky was given the job of bookkeeping for a logging camp. The woods were an alien world to this homesick Jewish city child-loggers, huge trees, bears, no Kosher food-but with the help of the burly Jean Louis, he began to feel less alone. Kevin Hawkes' beautiful illustrations bring the atmosphere of the frozen North Woods to life. Highly recommended.

Description from Children's Literature
Call Me Ruth
Call Me Ruth
An eight-year-old Russian Jewish girl newly arrived in New York City in 1908 is torn between her mother's increasingly radical union involvement and her desire to embrace contemporary American ways.

Gideon's People

by Carolyn Meyer
Torn between youthful rebellion and their traditional heritages, two boys from very different cultures--one Amish, one Orthodox Jew--discover just how similar they really are.

Description from Publisher

With the help of Isaac, an Orthodox Jew, sixteen-year-old Gideon leaves his Amish farm and family to find a less restrictive way of life. The coming-of-age story, set in Pennsylvania in 1911, is full of details about two cultures that are rich in both tradition and regulation. Meyer addresses universal themes -- struggle against family and emerging individuality -- and presents two distinct responses.

Description from Horn Book

Now here's a switch. Twelve-year-old Isaac Litvak, an Orthodox Jew, wakes up after a wagon accident in the home of an Amish family. Really. After all, how many stories have you read where the two conflicting cultures are Orthodox Jews and the Amish? The novelty of this unique clash of cultures makes for a most interesting and provocative read. Trouble begins when Gideon, the sixteen-year-old son in this kind Amish family, announces to his new-found friend, Isaac, that he is secretly planning to run away. Gideon is rebelling from his traditional Amish responsibilities - preparing for his baptism, getting married, and settling down. Gideon's sister Annie, however, begs Isaac to help her prevent Gideon from running away. If Gideon leaves, Annie explains, his Amish family will have to shun him. Isaac, an Orthodox Jew, knows all too well the rigors of rituals as he struggles to come to grips with the need to balance family traditions and personal freedoms.

Description from ALAN Review

At B.A.T.T
A group of boys find much to do in their Talmud Torah in New York just after the second World War. Follow them along and share in their adventures.

Description from Publisher

Fire at the Triangle Factory
Minnie and Tessa have worked together in the shirtwaist factory since they were only 10 years old and needed to hide from the inspector. Now, at 14, they are old enough to work, and both operate sewing machines to help their families scrape together a living. In 1911 New York City, Jewish Minnie and Catholic Tessa can only be friends at the factory, but this friendship pays off when the famous and tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire takes the lives of many of their coworkers and threatens theirs. The story builds in suspense as the girls help each other in their struggle to escape from the burning factory. The numerous, large color drawings by Mary O'Keefe Young are a wonderful asset to the story, which young readers will find exciting as well as touching.

Description from Booklist
Keystone Kids
Keystone Kids
Spike and Bob Russell are baseball-playing brothers, toiling in the minor leagues. While playing for the Nashville Volunteers, they get the call they've been dreaming about -- a promotion to the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Major Leagues. But their excitement proves short-lived as they are embroiled in a contretemps surrounding Brooklyn's new Jewish catcher, Jocko Klein. This excellent story, with a subplot of prejudice, discrimination, and their ultimate resolution, written by perhaps the foremost children's sports author of his generation, is sure to captivate young readers.

Description from Children's Literature

L'Chaim :
The Story of a Russian Emigre Boy

By Tricia Brown
Zev Tsukerman is a 12-year-old boy who was born Jewish in the former Soviet Union, where he and his family were unable to practice their religion freely. Now living in San Francisco, Zev studies Hebrew and learns the prayers and practices of his faith. Award-winning author Tricia Brown details a culture and a way of life.

Description from Publisher

Together, Brown and Kobre present a charming composite of 12-year-old Zev Tsukerman, Russian emigre, Orthodox Jew, contemporary San Francisco youngster. Colorful photographs show Zev at home, in his Jewish day school, celebrating Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and playing with his friends. The layout is attractive, with ample white space and clear type. Some of the photos, however, look too posed, and a few seem rather yellowish in tone and slightly blurred, as if taken from a family album. Yet the pictures certainly capture Zev as an appealing, likable child and make him, despite the unfamiliar aspects of his orthodoxy, seem remarkably like the happy "kid next door." The unpretentious text, written as though Zev were speaking, explains how Judaism, denied to Zev in his native country, now encircles and enriches his life.

Description from Booklist

Sarah, Also Known As Hannah
As if life weren't difficult enough for a Jewish family in the Ukraine at the turn of the century, 12-year-old Sarah's father dies, leaving his widow alone to raise four children. Knowing no other way to cope, Sarah's mother plans to send her two daughters to her brother in America, but he can pay passage only for one girl and requests 16-year-old Hannah. At almost the last minute, however, Mama decides she needs Hannah's help and income; therefore, Sarah is to go in Hannah's place. Heartsick at leaving her family, troubled to think she's a burden to her mother, and terrified by the trip she faces alone, the 12-year-old recounts her experiences on the long journey and, finally, the tentative reunion with her uncle and aunt on Ellis Island. Retelling her own mother's story, Ross has written a moving testament to the courage, resilience, and hopefulness born of desperation that motivated young immigrants such as Sarah and her mother. Cogancherry's black-and-white drawings effectively reinforce the adventure's realities.

Description from Booklist

Allegra Maud Goldman By Edith Konecky
A novel about a precocious girl growing up in an upper-middle-class Jewish family living in Brooklyn during the Depression.

Jewish Cowboy
Dreaming of a better life, Isaac leaves behind the slums and sweatshops of New York’s Lower East Side to become a cowboy on a horse ranch in North Dakota. The novel reflects the experiences of the author, who, like his fictional hero Isaac, actually became a cowboy in North Dakota, and later was a tobacco farmer in Connecticut. The events portrayed take place in the early 1900s.

Description from Publisher

Memories of Clason Point

By Kelly Sonnenfeld
An engaging memoir of growing up as a bootlegger's daughter in the Bronx. Here is an unusually evocative picture of family life during the Depression that transports the reader back through time with sensual imagery, dialogue, and minutely descriptive detail. Kelly Sonnenfeld's extraordinary recall has allowed her to re-create the lively scenes, pastimes, and characters of her own childhood, all centered on one block in the famous multi-ethnic Bronx neighborhood of Clason Point. From the Hooverville camps of squatters, homeless, and unemployed to an endless succession of boarders and stray dogs, a caravan of unforgettable faces and personalities travels through young Kelly's life. But most memorable of all are the looming figures of her own people: her regally proud maternal grandmother, who will buy her grandchildren fancy, starched dresses before putting food on their table; her anxious but granite-willed mother; her endearingly optimistic father, whose adventures in bootlegging bring the family close to peril on several occasions and eventually propel him from the pocket of an influential judge to prison on Rikers Island. For fans of Depression Era and gangster lore, for readers of any age who love losing themselves in another time and place, this memoir is a remarkable journey to one of the most colorful destinations in American history.

Description from Publisher

The Rabbi's Girls
Rabbi Levin teaches his daughters that life is both bitter and good in this account of a crucial year for the Levin family, as "seen through the eyes of 11-year-old Carrie. And fine eyes they are, that create with a sense of strength and gentleness, joy and sadness, and draw characters that are convincingly and memorable."--Language Arts.

Description from Publisher

Ike and Mama and the Once-A-Year Suit
It's the early 1900s, that time of the year again, time for the boys to get new suits, some for Passover, some for Easter. Ike's mother is the expert on how to get the most for their once-a-year suit. Mama, the acknowledged "best bargainer" in the Bronx, takes her ecumenical group of fourteen neighborhood boys on a shopping adventure.

Description from Publisher

Biblical Era | Middle Ages & Renaissance | Immigration & The American Experience | European History | Holocaust | Israel





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