Gittel's Journey: An Ellis Island Story
Gittel's Journey: An Ellis Island Story

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Annotation: When Gittel and her mother prepare to immigrate to America together, a health inspector tells Gittel's mother that she is not well enough to travel, and Gittel finds she must make the harrowing journey alone.
Catalog Number: #208871
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Copyright Date: 2019
Edition Date: 2019
Illustrator: Bates, Amy June,
Pages: 48
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 1-419-72747-8 Perma-Bound: 0-7804-7314-0
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-419-72747-4 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-7314-0
Dewey: E
LCCN: 2017044804
Dimensions: 29 cm.
Language: English
Kirkus Reviews
In the last years of the 19th century, 9-year-old Gittel must make the long journey to America alone.She and Mama say their goodbyes to their family and set off on the trek to the port where they will board the ship to a new world. But Mama is denied passage because of an eye infection. Her mother reminds her that she must be brave, so Gittel gets on the ship alone for the long, frightening journey, clutching the family candlesticks, her rag doll, and that most important slip of paper containing cousin Mendel's address in New York. Upon arriving at Ellis Island, Mendel's address is smeared and unreadable, so she is detained there. A kind Yiddish interpreter and a newspaper photographer save the day by placing her photo in a Jewish newspaper, and Mendel comes to claim her. Even greater joy comes when she is reunited with her mother several months later. The tale is based on a combination of stories handed down in the author's family. Newman tells Gittel's story with sympathy and tenderness, incorporating Jewish phrases (italicized) and customs and placing within it facts about that time and place. Gittel's every emotion is felt in Bates' soft, earth-toned, framed illustrations reminiscent of old-time sepia photographs. Block-print decorations in blue, green, and rust enhance the setting.A heartfelt, lovely evocation of one facet of the immigrant experience. (glossary, bibliography, websites) (Picture book. 5-9)
Publishers Weekly
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.)
School Library Journal Starred Review
Gr 2-5 "What if Mama's cousin Mendel doesn't like me?What if English is too hard to learn? What if I never see Mama again?" Nine-year-old Gittel is alone on a ship to America after her mother's eye infection causes a health inspector to refuse the woman passage. Finding comfort in Basha, a favorite rag doll, Mama's candlesticks, and some children on board, Gittel finally steps foot on Ellis Island only to learn that the precious folded paper with cousin Mendel's address is watermarked and illegible. Not even knowing Mendel's last name, the girl feels that her situation is hopeless until a kindly Yiddish interpreter comes up with the perfect solution. Newman based the book on two true family stories. An author's note includes photos as well as a brief history of the approximate three million Eastern European Jews who fled the shtetls and pogroms in the early 1900s. A short glossary of Yiddish words and phrases and a bibliography are also appended. The book is beautifully designed and illustrated; blue endpapers feature prints of the ship approaching Lady Liberty, while the other pages are light brown with black printed borders or classical arches. The watercolor illustrations artfully capture an era and people, from their simple woolen clothes to their expressive faces. VERDICT Pair this with Patricia Polacco's The Keeping Quilt for an historical look at early immigration. Barbara Auerbach, Cairo Public Library, NY
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* The creators of Ketzel, the Cat Who Composed (2015) offer another Jewish-themed picture book based on a true story. Nine-year-old Gittel and her mother are preparing to immigrate to the U.S., leaving friends and family behind in Europe. But when Mama is not allowed to board the boat because of an eye infection, Gittel must travel alone, bearing her mother's treasured candlesticks and a note with the address of a cousin who is expecting them. The journey is largely uneventful until Gittel's arrival at Ellis Island, when she discovers that the paper with cousin Mendel's address has blurred beyond recognition. Newman's spare yet evocative text works well as a read-aloud, and the solution to Gittel's problem (her picture appears in a Jewish newspaper where Mendel recognizes her) is both clever and true. Bates' mixed-media artwork features a variety of framed double- and single-paged spreads. She employs Old World style decorative frames throughout (setting off both art and text), appropriate to the story's turn-of-the-century setting. Earth tones predominate, with Gittel's red scarf setting her apart from the countless other immigrants depicted. Several spreads also take advantage of the book's horizontal width, effectively portraying long immigrant lines and the massive ship. Appended with a generous author's note, this serves as a reminder that Lady Liberty's words once mirrored U.S. immigration policy.
Bibliography Index/Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Word Count: 2,101
Reading Level: 3.9
Interest Level: 1-4
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 3.9 / points: 0.5 / quiz: 505557 / grade: Lower Grades

Gittel and her mother were supposed to immigrate to America together, but when her mother is stopped by the health inspector, Gittel must make the journey alone. Her mother writes her cousin's address in New York on a piece of paper. However, when Gittel arrives at Ellis Island, she discovers the ink has run and the address is illegible How will she find her family? Both a heart-wrenching and heartwarming story, Gittel's Journey offers a fresh perspective on the immigration journey to Ellis Island. The book includes an author's note explaining how Gittel's story is based on the journey to America taken by Lesl a Newman's grandmother and family friend.

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