Book Review: Gittel’s Journey an Ellis Island Story, Lesléa Newman

Gittel’s Journey an Ellis Island Story
Author: Lesléa Newman
Illustrator: Amy June Bates
Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers
Ages: 5-8
Genre: Picture book

A sweetly emotional look into the journey of a Jewish immigrant child unfolds across the pages of Gittel’s Journey. Readers meet Gittel as she says goodbye to her friends and she and her mother make their way toward the coast. When she’s separated from her mother by the health inspector immigration officer, Gittel must make the way to her extended family in America on her own.

This gripping and touching story provides timely and important insight on the topic of immigration in a historically accurate and kid-friendly way. Particularly little kids may enjoy having the text read-aloud, as the story is a bit longer than most for this age range. It thoughtfully discusses the struggles of immigration and the role that kind people can play in supporting immigrants.

The illustrations in this book harken back to another age in history, with beautifully blurred watercolor images in dark, warm tones. Parents may be reminded of Jan Brett’s The Mitten with the exquisitely drawn edging details around the text and borders on the pages.

A lovely way to learn more about the Jewish culture, Yiddish phrases throughout the text can be deciphered by the glossary at the end, and an author’s note reveals that the tale was inspired by true stories in her own family. This is a timeless addition to any collection.

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