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 Journeyoffers 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 Lesléa Newman's grandmother and family friend.
Based upon two different stories handed down in her family, author Lesléa Newman, who has written seventy books for children in her long career, spins the tale of Gittel, a young girl who must make an unimaginable journey on her own. Poignant, powerful, and ultimately hopeful, the narrative here explores themes such as persecution - at one point, Gittel's mother tells her that it isn't safe for them, in their home country - immigration, and the strength that religious and familial customs can give, in difficult times. The accompanying artwork by Amy June Bates, whose illustrations can also be found in such titles as the wonderful Ketzel, the Cat Who Composed, are stunningly beautiful. Her use of light is particularly adept here, and the overall composition of many of the scenes, with the decorative borders, had a lovely, folk-art feel to it that reminded me a bit of the work of Ivan Bilibin. High praise indeed! Recommended to anyone looking for stories about the immigrants who came through Ellis Island, particularly child immigrants, as well as to those who appreciate beautiful picture-book art.
Both the gorgeous illustrations and the melancholy but hopeful story are special.
I appreciated the three pages of extras at the end that include an author’s note explaining the details of the two true stories this historical fiction story is based on, women close with the author, with photos included. Also featured is a short glossary and a bibliography with a short list of books and a short list of websites.
Highly recommended for Jewish children, children who are immigrants or those who know immigrants, children who must face a difficult challenge, and just about everyone who can enjoy children’s picture books, also school libraries and for gift giving. Best for independent readers, I think.