In the last years of the 19th century, 9-year-old Gittel must make the long journey to America alone.
She and Mama say their goodbyes to their family and set off on the trek to the port where they will board the ship to a new world. But Mama is denied passage because of an eye infection. Her mother reminds her that she must be brave, so Gittel gets on the ship alone for the long, frightening journey, clutching the family candlesticks, her rag doll, and that most important slip of paper containing cousin Mendel’s address in New York. Upon arriving at Ellis Island, Mendel’s address is smeared and unreadable, so she is detained there. A kind Yiddish interpreter and a newspaper photographer save the day by placing her photo in a Jewish newspaper, and Mendel comes to claim her. Even greater joy comes when she is reunited with her mother several months later. The tale is based on a combination of stories handed down in the author’s family. Newman tells Gittel’s story with sympathy and tenderness, incorporating Jewish phrases (italicized) and customs and placing within it facts about that time and place. Gittel’s every emotion is felt in Bates’ soft, earth-toned, framed illustrations reminiscent of old-time sepia photographs. Block-print decorations in blue, green, and rust enhance the setting.
A heartfelt, lovely evocation of one facet of the immigrant experience. (glossary, bibliography, websites) (Picture book. 5-9)