Molly's Pilgrim

by Barbara Cohen

Other authorsMichael J. Deraney (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 1983



Call number

Fic Coh

Call number

Fic Coh

Local notes

Fic Coh




Lothrop Lee & Shepard (1983), Edition: 1st, 32 pages


Told to make a doll like a pilgrim for the Thanksgiving display at school, Molly's Jewish mother dresses the doll as she herself dressed before leaving Russia to seek religious freedom--much to Molly's embarrassment.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

32 p.; 8.5 x 0.75 inches


0688021034 / 9780688021030



User reviews

LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
A young Russian-Jewish immigrant girl in the early years of the twentieth century must contend with bullying and the ridicule of her peers when her family moves away from New York City to a smaller town. Here, at the school in Winter Hill, Molly's differences really stand out, especially when the
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mean Elizabeth is always there to comment on them. When her teacher gives her class an assignment to make little doll-sized Pilgrims or Indians, to be included in the model they are building of the First Thanksgiving, Molly shares the task with her mother. Called upon to explain what Pilgrims are, she describes them as people who "came to this country from the other side," looking for "religious they could worship God as they pleased." Molly's mother identifies strongly with this description, and makes a doll that looks just like her, when she was a little girl. For her part, Molly is dismayed, sure that her "Pilgrim" will not find favor with her class and teacher. Fortunately, her teacher, Miss Stickley, uses the incident to explore what it really means to be a Pilgrim, and draws a parallel between the American holiday of Thanksgiving, and the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkoth....

First published in 1983, Molly's Pilgrim is probably one of author Barbara Cohen's most well-known books, and has remained constantly in print since it was first released. I believe that a new edition, with new cover art, was just released earlier this year (2018). That said, although long aware of it, and although a fan of some of Cohen's other books - notably, her Seven Daughters and Seven Sons, which is a particular favorite of mine - I never happened to pick it up before now. A brief thirty pages, it is neither a picture-book (too much text, and too few illustrations), nor a beginning chapter-book (too short, no chapters), but something in between. It is really an illustrated short story, in book format. Its narrative addresses issues of bullying, immigration, social inclusion, cultural knowledge, and religious freedom, using the traditional Thanksgiving story to highlight the message that (as Miss Stickley says), Pilgrims are still coming to America. I found the story here quite moving, even tearing up at a few points, and think that it could be used as a starting point for classroom discussion of so many themes, from bullying and how to deal with it, to the ways in which "history" (even if highly mythologized history, like the "First Thanksgiving" story) has so many parallels in contemporary events. Recommended to anyone looking for children's stories about Thanksgiving, and the meaning it may have for a diverse range of people, but most especially, for new immigrants to America.
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LibraryThing member TeacherLibrarian
Cohen, Barbara. Molly’s pilgrim. (1988). New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books.

Molly is a Jewish girl in third grade at a school in Winter Hill. Her family recently moved from Russia to escape persecution of Jews there. There is a girl in school, Elizabeth, who makes fun of Molly because her
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English isn’t perfect yet. Elizabeth’s friends join in and make Molly feel miserable. She tells her mom who offers to go to school to talk to their teacher. Molly doesn’t want her to go the school because she doesn’t speak like the other mothers do; she knows very little English. At Thanksgiving time, Miss Stickley, Molly’s teacher, assigns the students to make pilgrim dolls. Molly’s mother offers to make one for Molly after Molly explains that a pilgrim is a person who came here to find religious freedom. The doll she makes is beautiful – and it looks like and is dressed like Molly’s mother. Elizabeth makes fun of the doll in class in front of Miss Stickley and all the children, saying it doesn’t look like a pilgrim because it looks Russian or Polish. Miss Stickley gives Elizabeth a lesson in where the Pilgrims got the idea for Thanksgiving – from the Jewish harvest holiday of Tabernacles. So, Miss Stickley explains to Elizabeth, the idea for Thanksgiving came from Jews like Molly and her mother. Miss Stickley asks Molly if she can display her doll on her desk and tells the class it will serve as a reminder that pilgrims are still coming to America. When Miss Stickley asks Molly to invite her mother to visit after school some day, Molly thinks it will be all right for her mother to come to school after all.

This is an excellent realistic fiction book. It effectively shows young children the pain and difficulty of being new to a school and of being new to a country. Children can relate to Molly’s feeling of embarrassment over being laughed at for being different. Children whose parents are different from the other children’s parents can relate to the way Molly loves her mother but doesn’t feel comfortable with her coming to school because she dresses and speaks differently from the other parents. Elizabeth and her followers are like real children the young readers know. Elizabeth’s giggling at Molly in class and the way she and her friend Hilda follow Molly on her way home singing a song that mocks Molly’s appearance are the kinds of things bullies typically do. The song refers to Molly having small eyes and a tall nose. This may be a bigoted way to mock her for being Jewish. Such bigotry still happens among children; this is another element that adds to the characters’ realism. The author shows that Molly and her mother are Jewish, but doesn’t use stereotypes to do so. This book does an excellent job of helping children appreciate the difficulties children who are new to the country face.

The illustrations are detailed black and white drawings that add to children’s understanding of the story by showing the cruel, mocking expressions on Elizabeth and her friends’ faces. They also show Molly’s expressions of fear, embarrassment, and pain. The illustrations do a good job of showing children how different Molly’s mother looks from Miss Stickley in the way they dress and wear their hair.
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LibraryThing member dc061140
This is a story of a Jewish girl from Russia who was new to the American school. She was an outcast. She was teased for looking and talking different. Her class had a Thanksgiving assignment that included making a pilgram out of a clothes pin. However, she didn't know what Thanksgiving was until
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she read about it. Her doll didn't look like the traditional pilgram and was teased more until she explained that the doll looked like her mother. She said her family are pilgrams who came to this country for the same reason as the pilgrams from long ago - for religous freedom. Then it was realized that she wasn't so different afterall.

I thought this book was very touching. I loved the way she was accepted in the end. I felt a little of her pain - being different for the other students when I was younger.

I would use this story as a moral lesson. I could also read it at Thanksgiving time. This book also tells that the pilgrams got the idea of Thanksgiving from the Bible about a Jewish harvest holiday of Tabernacles.
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LibraryThing member cry6546
Molly's Pigrim is a story about a young girl who is trying to fit into her third grade class. Molly's family Immigrated from Goraduk. Molly's class had to make a woman pilgrim out of a clothes pin. Molly's mom ended up making the pilgrim which looked like her. She told Molly that she is a modern
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day pilgrim.
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LibraryThing member marciaskidslit
Molly’s Pilgrim is a Thanksgiving story that teaches children that pilgrimage is ongoing. Pilgrims did not stop coming to America after the first Thanksgiving in the 1700s. Molly and her family are modern pilgrims; they emigrated from Russia to America for religious freedom. The doll Molly brings
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to class is a symbol that pilgrims should not be stereotyped; they represent diversity.

As a transitional book, the story introduces a sensitive subject and realistic relationships that children will face as they grow up. Vocabulary is simple and easy to read. There are no defined chapters in the book that would make it easier for children to transition between episodes in the story. The illustrations are done in shaded pencil. The book jacket is in watercolors.
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LibraryThing member rvangent
This book is a good example of realistic fiction because it portrays accurate human interactions, as the main character Molly has to deal with children in her class that make fun of her because of her ethnicity. The development throughout the story lets us in on Molly's feelings as she struggles
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through going to school everyday and in the end, a class project helps her classmates to truly understand the importance of accepting people that are different.
Media: pencil and charcoal drawings
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LibraryThing member kidlit9
Told to make a doll like a Pilgrim for the Thanksgiving display at school, Molly's Jewish mother dresses the doll as she herself dressed before leaving Russia to seek religious freedom-much to Molly's embarrassment.
LibraryThing member Junep
Molly and her family have moved to America from Russia.

Her mother says they moved to find freedom. But the children in Molly's third-grade class make fun of her accent and clothes. That doesn't seem like freedom to Molly at all.

At Thanksgiving everyone has to bring a Pilgrim doll to class. The doll
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Molly's mother makes looks like a Russian peasant girl. It doesn't look at all like the Pilgrims Molly has seen in her schoolbook. Molly is afraid she'll never fit in with her classmates now.
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LibraryThing member aMylp85
This book is about a girl named Molly that is new to a town. Some of the other girls like to make fun of Molly especially her Yiddish accent, and this gets Molly down. One day her teacher tells the class to make a pilgrim doll for Thanksgiving. Molly has moved recently from Russia and doesn't know
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what Thanksgiving or a pilgrim is. After it is explained to her she goes home to make her doll. After she explains the assignment and what a pilgrim is to her mother, her mother decides to make the doll for her. Molly's mother makes the doll to look like herself (and not like a traditional pilgrim). Of course the other girls make fun of Molly's doll but after Molly explains to the teacher what her mother thought about the assignment the class is reminded that there are modern day "pilgrims."

I liked this story. There wasn't anything extremely special about it, but it was a nice reminder of what a pilgrim is.

You could use this book to talk about other cultures and how America is full of other cultures. You could talk about how Thanksgiving is an American holiday and discuss similar holidays that other countries might have. You could also use this to talk about the pilgrims.
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LibraryThing member msmarymac
This is a story of a young Jewish girl that moves to America and is treated very badly by her classmates. Her classmates make fun of her for the way she talks and for the things she does not know about American History. One day the class is studying about Thanksgiving and the students are
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instructed to make dolls to resemble the pilgrims. Molly’s doll looks just like her, not the typical Pilgrim and her classmates pick on her endlessly. But when Molly explains, that she and her momma are pilgrims because they came to this country to seek religious freedom just like the Pilgrims at Plymouth many years ago, the students see things differently.

Personal Reflection: What a great story on diversity in the classroom and learning to accept others for the richness of their culture. I loved the way Molly’s momma was able to show her that she was just like the original pilgrims that came to America to give Molly more a since of belonging here in America. Molly realized she belonged here. I like the way the teacher made Molly’s pilgrim the center of the attention by putting it on her desk so the other children could be reminded that there are many pilgrims among our midst. Having moved around a lot as a kid I could empathize with Molly that it is very hard to make new friends in new places.

Classroom Extension: (minimum of 2)
1. This is a great book to use in teaching a lesson on cultural diversity. I think it would be a great idea to do a family tree with the various countries displayed on the tree representing you family lineage.
2. This would be a great book to read during thanksgiving and then to have a “traditional” thanksgiving meal where each student brings a dish that is traditional in their household. You could also select a country and bring a dish from that country or ask parents to make things that are native to their heritage to share with the class.
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LibraryThing member Skaide1
There are many reasons why I liked this book. I liked the plot, as it was organized, kept a maintainable pace, and mainly led the reader to lie in suspense as to what event would happen next. For example, Molly's family is a Jewish family from Russia, and she is experiencing school for the very
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first time. In class they are told to go home and make a pilgrim doll for a Thanksgiving project, and Molly brings back a doll with the image of her as a little girl. The other kids laughed at her: "That's not a pilgrim, stupid!" There lies the suspense for for the reader, as you don't know if her teacher will accept Molly's doll or think she did not follow the rules. I liked the tension it brought about with this suspense, and it really engages the reader. The big idea in this book was that a Pilgrim is just someone who enters a country from a different one, and there is no right or wrong, everyones differences are excepted. It was a very beneficial central message, and indeed a beneficial read.
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LibraryThing member masterm
My son read this for school. He was moved by it and wanted me to read it so we could talk about it; it made for a great discussion on being kind to others, etc. Very sweet story.
LibraryThing member LindseyJohnson
Lindsey Johnson

Book # 6

Historic realism

Book Summary: Molly is a young Jewish girl who has moved to America from Russia to escape the Cossacks. Her classmates, especially Elizabeth, make fun of her because she looks different and doesn’t speak English very well. Her class is learning about
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Thanksgiving, Molly has never heard of it before but thinks it’s a great story. They are supposed to make pilgrim dolls, so she tells her mother that a pilgrim is someone who moves to America, and for religious freedom. Her mother says that’s like them. So her mother makes the doll to look like herself. Molly doesn’t think this is right, but the doll is beautiful and she doesn’t want to hurt her fillings. The other children make fun of her doll, but when the teacher asks her to explain why hers is different, Miss. Stickley smiles and says she is right.

Personal Reaction: The story is really good; Molly learning that she is a pilgrim much like the earlier pilgrims is a wonderful discovery for the child. This might be a good book to have children who are new to America to read or listen to.

Extension Activities:
1. Make a cartoon to show the last part of the story when Molly learns that she is a pilgrim.
2. Rewrite the story with easy vocabulary and lots of pictures and then read it to a younger group of students.
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LibraryThing member Cheryl_in_CC_NV
For a book with a lesson, it's pretty good. The original illustrations are fine, with a retro feel that totally fits the plot and the setting. I do like how the teacher isn't perfect, but finally in November she realizes how to make Molly feel safer and more a part of the community of the classroom.
LibraryThing member RaskFamilyLibrary
Set before the Russian Revolution. Molly is a Russian refugee fleeing religious persecution living in a small town in the USA. The story tells what happens when Molly 's Pilgrim doll for a class assignment and receives a wonderful reaction from the teacher. "It takes all kinds of Pilgrims to make a
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Thanksgiving". Beautiful story. A tear jerker.
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LibraryThing member Abrahamray
Great children’s book about pilgrims in olden times.
LibraryThing member Miss.Barbara
Molly and her parents are a Jewish family who have emigrated from Russia to the United States to escape religious persecution. Molly is the only Jewish child in third grade.

When Thanksgiving arrives, the teacher assigns a project to make a Pilgrim doll. Molly is embarrassed by her mother's
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attempts to help with her Thanksgiving project. She makes a pilgrim doll — but dresses it in Russian clothing. Soon, however, Molly learns that it takes all kinds of "pilgrims" to make a Thanksgiving.

"A thought-provoking Thanksgiving read-aloud". — Booklist
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½ (53 ratings; 4)
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