GOOSEBERRIES TO ORANGES by Barbara Cohen

GOOSEBERRIES TO ORANGES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This first-person account of coming to America is a sort of composite chronicle, reduced to picture-book scale and stripped-down reporting. First, we have the European village of Rohatyn, where the motherless narrator lives with an aunt and a girl cousin and where, when war comes, ""Soldiers in steel helmets searched every corner, looking for boys to take away to the army."" Then comes a cholera epidemic. ""Aunt Rebecca died. Cousin Leah died. Half the village died. I was eight."" And so, with another aunt and more cousins, she boards a ship for America, where Papa has already established himself with an apartment, a job, and a new wife. After being herded around on Ellis Island, she finds that the streets of America are paved with garbage, not gold--but she also (all on one page) goes to school, learns English, discovers the library, and makes a friend. To this typical experience Cohen attaches a particularizing motif of fruit: the girl hates to leave the gooseberries and pears of Aunt Rebecca's garden; during the crossing, she watches as a man, while conversing with her, peels and consumes, section by section, a bright ball called an orange; and finally, with her first nickel earned in America, she buys two oranges (one for her father) and eats hers section by section. With its sweet taste she puts the fruits of Rohatyn behind her and makes America her home. This doesn't make a story of the experience, but it's enough to give readers an opening into this youngest version of the familiar American family memory. Brodsky.'s roughly cross-hatched watercolors, despite some arty distortions of featured figures, help to convey the moods of sunny fields, somber army, shipboard masses, and busy tenement-lined streets.

Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 1982
Publisher: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard