At Ellis Island: A History in Many Voices


Ellis Island was the gateway to America and the promise of freedom for thousands. Its walls are rich with stories. Its walls are rich with stories. In this book we hear myriad of those voices. First we follow a young person today. Her great-great-grandmother entered America through Ellis Island. As this young girl walks the halls of the famous site, she wonders about the past, the people, and their hopes, dreams and challenges.

Here, too, is the voice of Sera, an Armenian girl ...

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Ellis Island was the gateway to America and the promise of freedom for thousands. Its walls are rich with stories. Its walls are rich with stories. In this book we hear myriad of those voices. First we follow a young person today. Her great-great-grandmother entered America through Ellis Island. As this young girl walks the halls of the famous site, she wonders about the past, the people, and their hopes, dreams and challenges.

Here, too, is the voice of Sera, an Armenian girl from the early 1900s. Fleeing the unthinkable in her home country, she longs to join her father in America. As Sera enters the halls of Ellis Island, she lives those same hopes, dreams, and challenges.

The voices of real immigrants — their suffering in steerage, their first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty, and their journey through the Great Hall — complete this touching look into an important part of America's history. A pivotal time and place is brought to life through a combination of many voices speaking in harmony.

The experiences of people coming to the United States from many different lands are conveyed in the words of a contemporary young girl visiting Ellis Island and of a girl who immigrated in about 1910, as well as by quotes from early twentieth century immigrants and Ellis Island officials.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In a tribute to the millions who came to America through Ellis Island, the pair behind Crossing the Delawareweaves together a historical tapestry of real-life anecdotes with the fictional, first-person accounts of two children's visits-nearly 100 years apart-to the immigrant-processing station. The opening account (in blocky red typeface) features the thoughts of a contemporary young tourist recalling her great-great grandmother's arrival to the island. This narrative presents much of the book's factual content ("Children could not pass through alone. Sometimes they had to wait for days until an adult already in the country came to meet them"). In blue script, a parallel story is told through the letters of Sera, a 10-year-old Armenian immigrant, coming to America at the turn of the 20th century. She's writing to her mother, and it's only when Sera is almost sent back (her father is late coming to claim her) that readers realize her mother died in a massacre. "Back? Back to Armenia? But they will kill me! I will be dead like you, Mama. I scream, long and high, and turn to run." Sera's epistolary tale incorporates other actual events, including the sinking of the passenger ship, Mongolia. Krudop's soft-edged, poignant gouache illustrations of Sera's journey from ship's rail to her father's arms are juxtaposed with stark black-and-white archival images. Each spread's busy layout includes photographs of and quotations from actual immigrants. Though it may require rereading several pages to follow the threads of the separate voices, the effort is worth it. Peacock has seamlessly stitched together fact and fiction and presented a composite picture of courage and hope. Ages7-10. (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
School Library Journal

Gr 4-6
A picture book that is stronger in concept than in execution. In a format similar to her Crossing the Delaware (S & S, 1998), Peacock describes the immigration experience to children. The first fictional narrative presented (in red type) is that of a modern child visiting Ellis Island, intertwining facts she has gathered about her family at the museum. The second narrative thread is delivered through letters written in cursive handwriting. They are from a fictional Armenian girl, Sera, who in 1910 makes the long journey to join her father in New York. She describes to her mother back home the Statue of Liberty, being in the Baggage Hall among swarms of people speaking different languages, and the pervasive feelings of uncertainty and fear. The third element is the inclusion of numerous quotes from actual immigrants, an interpreter, a surgeon, and other officials. Overall, the story is a powerful one, but the whole is more likely to confuse than to inform young readers. The book's approach is sketchily explained in the author's note and not sufficiently introduced in the main text, which is divided into separate boxes, each of which appears in a different color and font. Krudop's gouache paintings are evocative and expressive, and archival photographs are sprinkled throughout. There may be some use for this offering in a classroom with some guided reading, but youngsters who come to it on their own will most likely feel lost.
—Luann TothCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
The voice of a fictional immigrant girl joins with those of historical narratives and the author's own to paint a portrait of Ellis Island and the children who passed through it. Ten-year-old Sera Assidian addresses her dead mother in an imaginary letter as she makes her way from the Old World to the New to join her father. Each page turn presents a new facet of the experience, from the food on board the ship to the sight of the Statue of Liberty to the grueling uncertainty of detention at Ellis Island. Sharing the page are thematically selected excerpts from archival sources, photographs and Krudop's emotional gouaches. Threaded throughout are Peacock's own musings as she describes her impressions of the Ellis Island National Monument. All this makes for a busy composition, Sera's narrative rendered in faux-cursive, the archival materials appearing in boxes or different colors and the uber-narrative in red-although, irritatingly enough, in changing typefaces. This last element is often ponderous and intrusive, an adult layer over what are children's voices, and ultimately limits the effectiveness of an otherwise artfully organized whole. (bibliography, websites) (Fictionalized nonfiction. 8-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689830266
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 5/22/2007
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 185,977
  • Age range: 7 - 10 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Louise Peacock, who has always been interested in history, took a PhD in medieval studies before turning to children's liturature. Her first book, Crossing the Delaware, was inspired by a trip with her son to Washington's Crossing. The book, also told in many voices, was praised by Booklist with a starred review.At Ellis Island continues this unique method of historical exploration. Dr. Peacock lives in Haslett, Michigan.

Walter Lyon Krudop was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, in 1966. He had his first painting lesson when he was eight years old and later studied illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York. He has illustrated a number of books for young readers, including The Good-Night Kiss and Wake Up, Little Children by Jim Aylesworth; Black Whiteness by Robert Burleigh; and Crossing the Delaware by Louise Peacock. He lives with his wife, Sara, in New York City.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2009

    An Ellis Island story

    The book tells three stories at once, a children's story, letters from immigrants and historical background. Poignant both for children and adults reading the book.

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