Amy Hest, text
P. J. Lynch, illustrations
Interests: history, ship, travel, immigration, American history, New York City, sewing, romance
Candlewick Press: 1997
Also by this illustrator: The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey
Jessie is a thirteen-year-old living with her Grandmother in a tiny town in Eastern Europe. Their rabbi has received a ticket to America that he cannot use, and he selects Jessie to go in his place. She is terrified but her Grandmother insists that she go for the opportunity of a better life. During the long sea voyage she befriends her fellow passengers, including a handsome young shoemaker. In New York she goes to work for a seamstress from her old village. Jessie’s needlework is in great demand, especially her lacework for wedding dresses. Three years go by and she saves her money carefully. By chance she runs into the young shoemaker again, and they are soon engaged to be married. But first she sends for her Grandmother, and at long last they are tearfully reunited at Ellis Island.
The storyline is a straightforward one, one event follows another as Jessie carefully and methodically constructs her new life in the new world. The real strength of this book lies in the illustrations, luminous and quivering with Jessie’s restrained emotions. The expressions of the characters are so immediate and touching, conveying great sorrow, excitement and love. This book allows us to walk in the shoes of an early immigrant to America, and feel a little of what it must have been like to leave everyone and everything behind to venture into an unknown land.