Grade Level: 3-8
Title: Journey to Ellis Island
Author: Carol Bierman
Illustrator: Laurie McGaw
Summary: This is a true story that follows a Russian-Jewish family’s journey to Ellis Island. It begins in Rotterdam where they board the ship in 1922 to come to America. It talks about the life and hardships in Russia before the voyage and the reasons they left Russia. It talks about the voyage and arriving at Ellis Island. Since Jehuda (Julius) has his arm in a sling (from an injury he got in Russia), there is some concern that he will not be admitted to America. He has to undergo an extra physical where he has to run around Ellis Island to prove he is fit enough to stay. He does this and is allowed to enter the country. The experiences of the process at Ellis Island are described in detail. They take the ferry from Ellis Island to Manhattan. Then the first days in America are described. The book ends as Julius returns to Ellis Island on his 75th birthday.
Highlights: There are wonderful primary sources – postcards, tickets, photographs – that document the journey to America and the Ellis Island experiences. The injury to Jehuda and the possibility that he might not get entry to America really personalizes the experience. This is a true story.
Character: Jehuda and family
Setting: Boat, Ellis Island, and NYC
Plot: The boy (and his family) journey to Ellis Island and must prove they are fit to enter the country
Problem: Yehuda has an injury that may cause him to be rejected
Notes: The primary documents make this book especially interesting. Plus the injury of Yehuda’s arm engages students and helps them identify with the plot – will he be able to get into the country. The book makes it easy for the readers to get immersed in the experiences at each phase of the journey. Good for a unit on immigration. Also, good lead in to visit the Ellis Island Web Site.