Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyDespite the book's somewhat misleading title (only two pages are devoted to the practice of changing names), Levine ( I Hate English! ; If You Lived at the Time of Martin Luther King ) offers a comprehensive, well organized discussion of the immigration procedures followed at Ellis Island between 1892 and 1914. One- or two-page chapters offer concise answers to questions (``What did people bring with them?'; ``What happened if you were detained?''; ``How did people learn English?''), enabling youngsters to digest easily a significant amount of information. Facts about the many rigorous routines and tests (medical, legal, literacy) that new arrivals endured are peppered with the intriguing personal reminiscences of individuals who lived through them. Sometimes sharply focused, sometimes effectively hazy, Parmenter's acrylic paintings admirably evoke the period, as well as the anguish and joy that characterized the bittersweet Ellis Island experience. Ages 7-10. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Vicki FooteThe introduction of this nonfiction book explains that it tells the stories of the immigrants who came through New York Harbor from the 1880s until 1914, when the great migrations ended. Part of a series of historical nonfiction, it is "new and updated." The book is written in a question and answer format, beginning with "What was Ellis Island?" and continues with questions and answers concerning the reasons people chose to come to America, the ocean trip, the processes at Ellis Island, and many other pertinent issues. Most of the questions are answered in one or two pages. Realistic and interesting acrylic paintings add visual information. Many facts are interspersed with stories of individuals who had particular problems, such as the girl who could not read but had to show that she could read in order to pass the literacy test. The inspector, knowing that she was religious, gave her the Lord's Prayer to "read" so she could pass the test. Another girl in the Ellis Island restaurant had never eaten a banana, and ate the skin and all. Serious issues are discussed, such as the conditions on the ships and the extensive examinations that were given before the immigrants could be admitted to the country. The closing pages give information about visiting Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty along with a Web site, address, and telephone and fax numbers. It is all written in a style that is clear, informative, and relevant to the interests of the young reader, and should be a great addition to social studies curriculum.
Hazel RochmanWas the ocean voyage dangerous? Where would you sleep and eat on the ship? What happened if the doctors on Ellis Island found something wrong with you? Did immigrants ever return? What was the Staircase of Separation? Levine provides one- or two-page answers to these questions and many more. She writes in a clear, direct style that's packed with information and lively case histories of the millions who passed through Ellis Island in the period from the 1880s through 1914. We've had picture books that dramatize a single immigrant family's story; and there are lots of young adult titles, fiction and nonfiction, about the immigration experience; but this is one of the best general historical accounts for younger readers. Levine focuses on the immigrants' Ellis Island experience, but she also covers what the immigrants left behind, how and why they came, and what happened when they first arrived. There are many illustrations, sometimes full-page, sometimes small, in acrylic earth colors; while not as dramatic as the period photographs in Freedman's "Immigrant Kids" (1980), they are an attractive part of a clear and accessible design. For classroom discussion and for personal research projects, this is a great starting place. Kids will discover that we are all immigrants or descendants of immigrants, and that prejudice against "them" started very early, when "we" were settlers or colonists and everyone else was an immigrant.
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