THE MEMORY COAT

Through the experiences of two children, Rachel and her orphaned cousin Grisha, readers learn why Russian-Jewish families fled to America for refuge at the turn of the century, the arduous 14-day journey they faced on the ocean, and the critical physical inspections that occurred at Ellis Island that could determine their futures. For Rachel’s family, their moment of peril comes when Grisha, whose eye has been scratched, is marked for deportation with chalk on the back of the ragged jacket that was sewn by his mother. Rachel quickly thinks to turn his jacket inside out and he is examined again, by a kinder doctor, and is allowed to stay with the family. Dooling’s dramatic oil paintings reflect the fears and hopes of not only Rachel’s family, but of all immigrants who arrived at Ellis Island hoping for freedom from religious persecution and for more prosperous futures. Woodruff (The Orphan of Ellis Island, 1997, etc.) includes information about on her inspiration for this book, the atrocities of life in Russia, and the history of Ellis Island since its opening in 1892. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-67717-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

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KEVIN AND HIS DAD

There is something profoundly elemental going on in Smalls’s book: the capturing of a moment of unmediated joy. It’s not melodramatic, but just a Saturday in which an African-American father and son immerse themselves in each other’s company when the woman of the house is away. Putting first things first, they tidy up the house, with an unheralded sense of purpose motivating their actions: “Then we clean, clean, clean the windows,/wipe, wipe, wash them right./My dad shines in the windows’ light.” When their work is done, they head for the park for some batting practice, then to the movies where the boy gets to choose between films. After a snack, they work their way homeward, racing each other, doing a dance step or two, then “Dad takes my hand and slows down./I understand, and we slow down./It’s a long, long walk./We have a quiet talk and smile.” Smalls treats the material without pretense, leaving it guileless and thus accessible to readers. Hays’s artwork is wistful and idyllic, just as this day is for one small boy. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-79899-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1999

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ME AND MY FAMILY TREE

PLB 0-517-70967-8 Me And My Family Tree (32 pp.; $13.00; PLB $14.99; May; 0-517-70966-X; PLB 0-517-70967-8): For children who are naturally curious about the people who care for them (most make inquiries into family relationships at an early age), Sweeney explains, with the assistance of a young narrator, the concept of a family tree. Photographs become understandable once the young girl learns the relationships among family members; she wonders what her own family tree will look like when she marries and has children. A larger message comes at the end of this story: not only does she have a family tree, but so does everyone in the world. Cable’s drawings clearly define the process of creating a family tree; she provides a blank tree so children can start on their own geneaology.(Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-517-70966-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1999

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