Ellis Island: Coming to the Land of Liberty

Overview

Ellis Island, America’s most famous location in its history of immigration, was once a landfill in the upper bay of New York Harbor. Since its opening on January 1, 1892, Ellis Island has come to symbolize the waves of immigrants from a list of countries that seems endless. Although there were other immigration stations along the United States’ shores between 1892 and 1924, half of the newcomers to the United States came through Ellis Island. Once a popular spot with picnickers, Ellis Island was purchased by a ...

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Overview

Ellis Island, America’s most famous location in its history of immigration, was once a landfill in the upper bay of New York Harbor. Since its opening on January 1, 1892, Ellis Island has come to symbolize the waves of immigrants from a list of countries that seems endless. Although there were other immigration stations along the United States’ shores between 1892 and 1924, half of the newcomers to the United States came through Ellis Island. Once a popular spot with picnickers, Ellis Island was purchased by a farmer in 1794. The government reclaimed the island and Ellis Island became the foremost station in immigration services. It was enlarged to six acres, and nearly twelve million people passed through its doors until it closed in 1954.
This is the story not only of the many Americans who first came to this country through Ellis Island but of Ellis Island itself.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The generously sized period photos and Bial's museum shots tell a vivid and poignant tale for even those who cannot yet read the words. If one cannot get to the museum itself, this book is the next best thing."—School Library Journal

"With the handsome treatment readers have come to expect, Bial presents the history of the New York Harbor immigration station . . . Illustrated with the author’s photographs of the current museum as well as archival images, the account is further enriched by frequent quotes from those who passed through its doors."—Kirkus Reviews

". . . plentiful historical photographs speak volumes, and Bial’s contemporary shots provide a worthy guide for those who cannot visit the restored buildings and exhibits in person."—Booklist

"As Bial's appended "Children's Books" bibliography attests, there is plenty of material on Ellis Island available to young reader. Bial stakes a claim, though, to some of the most browsable, engaging photographs, which accompany his essay on the function of the island and the experiences of some of the immigrants who passed through, or were turned back, at the examination center."—Bulletin
Children's Literature - Mary Bowman-Kruhm
Although Native Americans called the island Kiosh, or Gull Island, and the Dutch and then the English referred to it as Oyster Island because of its rich oyster beds, the island's uses were varied until 1890, when its excellent location made Ellis Island an ideal entry point for "what would become the largest mass migration in human history" (p. 14). Printed on quality glossy paper with superb photos, most of them taken by the author, this book recounts the island's history, with a focus on why it was an emotional as well as a physical door into the United States. Eventually named after its late-eighteenth-century owner, Samuel Ellis, a New Jersey farmer, the influx of immigrants began in 1892. From then until 1954, more than 12 million men, women, and children joined Annie Moore, from County Cork in Ireland, who was the first immigrant to pass through the huge building. Most were steerage passengers who did not benefit from first- or second-class passenger status. In 1897 fire destroyed the original building and, although no one perished, many records were lost. After World War I the influx gradually diminished, as immigrants got visas prior to travel. The fascinating Ellis Island story is told in direct but sensitive language. It is a magnificent photo essay and highly recommended. Reviewer: Mary Bowman-Kruhm, Ph.D.
School Library Journal

Gr 4-6

Bial examines the history of the famed immigration station in similar fashion to his Tenement: Immigrant Life on the Lower East Side (Houghton, 2002). He looks at the socio-historical roots of the mass exodus to America and provides a detailed look at the immigrant experience from ship to shore, with Ellis Island in between. Primary-source quotes and period photos pair eloquently with the modern narrative voice and color photographs of the museum exhibits. Without chapter breaks, glossary, or index, this book is better suited for curious readers; for research, Ellen Levine's If Your Name Was Changed at Ellis Island (Scholastic, 1993) is more user-friendly. Bial does provide a helpful list of works consulted and children's books for follow-up reading. The generously sized period photos and Bial's museum shots tell a vivid and poignant tale for even those who cannot yet read the words. If one cannot get to the museum itself, this book is the next best thing.-Rebecca Dash, New York Public Library

Kirkus Reviews
With the handsome treatment readers have come to expect, Bial presents the history of the New York Harbor immigration station that processed a good half of the immigrants coming to America between 1892 and 1924. In economical prose, he sketches in early immigration patterns and practices, explains the establishment of the immigration station at the beginning of the federal government's oversight of the process, describes its building (and rebuilding after a fire burned the first structure), the Atlantic voyage, the hopefuls' passage through the various examinations, their occasional detention and refusal at the border, its closing after World War I and its renaissance as a tourist site. Illustrated with the author's photographs of the current museum as well as archival images, the account is further enriched by frequent quotes from those who passed through its doors. Although high points receive more attention than low ones, it is overall a measured account, although limited by its brevity. Suggestions for further reading include titles for both adults and children. (Nonfiction. 9-13)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618999439
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 5/18/2009
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 48
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 1220L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 10.20 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Raymond Bial is an acclaimed photoessayist for children. Four of his books were chosen as Notable Books in the Field of Social Studies by the NCSS. He lives in Urbana, Illinois, with his wife and children.

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