HANNAH’S JOURNAL by Marissa Moss


The Story of an Immigrant Girl
by & illustrated by
Age Range: 7 - 9
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In her third fictional diary, Moss tells the story of ten-year-old Hannah, a spunky and self-confident girl in a Lithuanian shtetl in 1901. Although Hannah loves her family dearly, she is thrilled when her Uncle Saul offers her a ticket to America. While her mother is torn between wanting her only daughter to have a better life or keeping her close at hand, a pogrom in the village tilts the scale and she is convinced to let Hannah go. In the journal that her father has given for her tenth birthday, Hannah chronicles her trip. Setting out with her 14-year-old cousin Esther, she realizes that she will have to be the leader of the pair; Esther, although older, is timid, fearful, and doesn’t believe they will ever make it. Hannah manages to get them both onto the steamship, where they travel in steerage (“I think it should be called storage because we are packed together like potatoes in a bin”). It’s not all misery, though; she blissfully describes her first taste of an orange (after being told that you don’t eat the rind), and enjoys watching the first-class passengers in their finery. Finally the girls reach New York and, after several anxious weeks on Ellis Island, find themselves on New York’s Lower East Side. “Other people from our shtetl live in the same rooms. . . . So although it’s a strange new home, it’s also cozy and familiar.” Children will be fascinated by Hannah’s tale, and perhaps amazed that she’s allowed to undertake the trip on her own. Teachers will find the book useful when covering units on immigration, although they will also want to use other sources to illustrate the poverty, the abominable working conditions and the harshness of immigrant life in this period. Moss’s illustrations (purportedly drawn by Hannah and thus in a deliberately childish style) are charming and informative and the handwritten text on lined paper adds to the sense of authenticity. The subject of Jewish persecution and emigration is seldom treated on so young a level, but the youthful tone of the narrator presents exactly the right balance of fear and hope. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-15-202155-8
Page count: 56pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2000


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