Castle on Hester Street

Castle on Hester Street

by Linda Heller

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Delightful and funny! Grandpa tells the story of his trip from Russia to New York pulled by a flying goat, of buttons the size of sleds, and of a castle on Hester Street. Grandmother tells the way it really was.


Delightful and funny! Grandpa tells the story of his trip from Russia to New York pulled by a flying goat, of buttons the size of sleds, and of a castle on Hester Street. Grandmother tells the way it really was.

Editorial Reviews

Woman Books
Pre-school children will be charmed and enlightened.
Leonard S. Marcus
…Linda Heller's zestful tale of Russian-Jewish immigration at the turn of the last century…Loving grandparents, Rose and Sol, vie for young Julie's attention as they give wildly contrasting accounts of their Old World departures and New York arrivals. Sol, the dreamer, speaks of dockside greetings from President Teddy Roosevelt and of living like a king on Manhattan's Lower East Side. Rose, the realist, recalls cramped quarters and long hours of piecework. Both versions of the past, Heller suggests, contain a kernel of truth. Together, they make a palpable family legacy: one part bitter, one part sweet, all worth remembering.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Originally illustrated by the author, this 1982 Sydney Taylor Book Award winner receives spectacular new life by Kulikov (Carnival of the Animals). Like the story, Kulikov's illustrations are beguiling, witty and filled with enough details for dozens of readings. Julie's grandparents tell her about coming to America and falling in love, their versions competing in narrative counterpoint-her grandmother Rose gives her the facts ("Grandpa came on a boat, like I did. It was terrible") and her grandfather Sol exaggerates ("But what a welcome I got when I arrived. President Theodore Roosevelt rode his horse through a blizzard of ticker tape to greet me. 'Hello, Sol,' he said. 'Mighty glad you could come' "). The book riffs on the difference between the stories the two grandparents tell while at the same time showing how much Julie loves both grandparents and both types of "true." Kulikov never fails to amuse, whether he's rendering a faded sepia photograph of Sol's pushcart or the buttons Sol imagines he sold-"buttons carved from diamonds, emeralds, and rubies.... Buttons you could use as sleds in the snow." His painting of Rose being watched by her five brothers (so "nobody [could steal] her away") is especially irresistible, as is his homage to Chagall as the two young lovers float in the air behind their babies who ride down Hester Street in "hand-carved golden baby carriages." Not to be missed. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature
Julie�s grandfather tells her many fantastic imaginative tales about his experiences as an immigrant from Russia to New York. Her grandmother follows each with a less wonderful but true story of what actually happened. His journey here in a golden wagon was really on a crowded ship. He was not greeted by President Theodore Roosevelt, but by his brother Morris after his ordeal on Ellis Island, and so the stories go, like the �castle� that was a tiny shared room, and her wealthy grandmother, who really worked in a factory. Although she insists on the truth, Julie�s grandmother agrees that what they had was truly valuable: each other and freedom. Kulikov uses mixed media to create the buildings and streets of New York as well as the dream-like visions Grandpa imagines. The double pages are filled with details of the time, from the clothing to Ellis Island, the snow-covered streets, and the squalid tenement rooms. This is nostalgia touched with humor, history with sly exaggeration. As Grandpa says on the back of the jacket: �A true story, just the way I remember it�� This is the 25th anniversary edition of the story, newly illustrated. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Kirkus Reviews
New pictures add fresh animation to a slightly retouched text originally published in 1982. Young Julie listens happily as Grandfather describes how he crossed the ocean in a golden wagon pulled by Moishe, a very special goat; how Teddy Roosevelt personally welcomed him; and how he emerged from his huge castle on New York City's Lower East Side to sell gemstone and plate-sized buttons. Meanwhile, Grandmother counters with more likely accounts of an overcrowded immigrant ship, Ellis Island and hard times on Hester Street. The two find common ground at last, in telling how they met and had Julie's mother and other children: "We had each other and we were free to live as we wanted." Properly chastened, Grandfather promises to tell only the truth from now on-such as the tale of how he and Moishe once sang for Woodrow Wilson. The historical references make the narrative a bit creaky, but Kulikov recreates warmly lit, authentic-looking interiors and street scenes, and his smiling, flexibly posed figures project an intimacy that will draw children in to this intergenerational interchange. (Picture book. 6-8)

Product Details

Jewish Publication Society
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
9.67(w) x 8.04(h) x 0.16(d)
520L (what's this?)
Age Range:
5 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Linda Heller has written and illustrated many books for children. The Castle on Hester Street won the Sydney Taylor Book Award when it was first published in 1982. Linda Heller lives in New York City.

Boris Kulikov, a former set and costume designer in St. Petersburg, Russia, was chosen as a Flying Start by Publishers Weekly. He has also illustrated Morris the Artist by Lore Segal, The Perfect Friend by Yelena Romanova, and Carnival of Animals by John Lithgow. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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