Shutting Out the Sky

Overview


In a stunning nonfiction debut, award-winning author Deborah Hopkinson focuses on five immigrants' stories to reveal the triumphs and hardships of early 1900s immigrant life in New York.

Acclaimed author Hopkinson recounts the lives of five immigrants to New York's Lower East Side through oral histories and engaging narrative. We hear Romanian-born Marcus Ravage's disappointment when his aunt pushes him outside to peddle chocolates on the street. And about the pickle cart lady ...

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Overview


In a stunning nonfiction debut, award-winning author Deborah Hopkinson focuses on five immigrants' stories to reveal the triumphs and hardships of early 1900s immigrant life in New York.

Acclaimed author Hopkinson recounts the lives of five immigrants to New York's Lower East Side through oral histories and engaging narrative. We hear Romanian-born Marcus Ravage's disappointment when his aunt pushes him outside to peddle chocolates on the street. And about the pickle cart lady who stored her pickles in a rat-infested basement. We read Rose Cohen's terrifying account of living through the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, and of Pauline Newman's struggles to learn English. But through it all, each one of these kids keeps working, keeps hoping, to achieve their own American dream.

Photographs and text document the experiences of five individuals who came to live in the Lower East Side of New York City as children or young adults from Belarus, Italy, Lithuania, and Romania at the turn of the twentieth century.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Voice of Youth Advocates

(June 1, 2004; 0-439-37590-8)

Hopkinson describes life in the tenements by artfully weaving together the firsthand accounts of five people who immigrated to New York as young teenagers at the turn of the twentieth century. After introducing their stories, she tackles her topic by subject, bringing each voice to comment on the physical conditions of the tenements, the work available to immigrants, play, education, and food. By incorporating direct quotes and nicely reproduced archival photographs, the author brings the tenement experience to life for the reader. Notes at the end fully document all her sources, while a time line and further reading give readers access to more information. The book is beautifully designed, with plenty of space given to the photographs, so that no page is text heavy. The square, open format definitely gives it the look of a "children's book," although middle school readers at the upper range of the book's audience will get the most out of this excellent source. There is little available on the topic for this age. Although both excellent books, Linda Granfield's 97 Orchard Street, New York (Tundra, 2001/VOYA December 2001) is a less engaging read, and Raymond Bial's Tenement (Houghton Mifflin, 2002) is for a somewhat younger audience.-Nina Lindsay.

Kirkus STARRED

September 15th, 2003

Between 1880 and 1919, 23 million people came to America, most through the port of New York and most from eastern and southern Europe. Five young individuals and their experiences represent those masses in this well-conceived volume. Hopkinson covers the journey, Ellis Island, tenements, street life, work, reform movements, and education, always rooted in the actual stories and words of individual immigrants. Archival photographs–including many by Lewis Hine and Jacob Riis, excerpts from autobiographies and oral histories, and meticulous documentation, with a section on resources for young readers, make this an excellent model of historical writing. Hopkinson's enthusiasm for research, primary sources, and individual stories that make history come alive is evident throughout this excellent work. Nonfiction at its best and a good companion to Mary Jane Auch's Ashes to Roses (2002), Johanna Hurwitz's Dear Emma (2002), and other recent works on the subject. (foreword, afterword, timeline, notes, photo credits, index)

Horn Book Magazine

(January 1, 2004; 0-439-37590-8)

(Intermediate, Middle School) Hopkinson describes Jacob Riis's 1890 book exposing the deplorable conditions of New York City tenement housing as having "such powerful pictures and words that readers were carried directly into the world of the tenements." The same can be said of Hopkinson's own absorbing look at the lives of immigrant children and young adults in New York at the turn of the twentieth century--a time of unprecedented immigration to America. This well-organized social history covers a lot of ground and draws much of its intensity from firsthand accounts. The opening chapters reflect the progression many immigrant children (and adults) made from dreams of easy wealth and happiness to the bleak reality of tenement life. The accessible narrative, effectively supported by well-placed sepia-toned archival photographs, documents the struggles of young immigrants (including dangerous living and working conditions, poverty, lack of education) to carve out better futures for themselves and their families in spite of the obstacles they faced just to survive. A final chapter, filling in later accomplishments made by five specific young people, ends the book on a note of promise. A timeline, list of further reading, bibliography, chapter notes, and index enhance this fascinating glimpse into the past. Copyright 2004 of The Horn Book, Inc. All rights reserved.

School Library Journal

Publishers Weekly
This chronicle of the challenges facing immigrants in New York's teeming tenements effectively employs primary sources to place a personal face on broader historical events, helping children make sense of the impressive statistic that about 23 million people came to the U.S. between 1880-1919, with 17 million entering via New York (the book ends in 1924, with the passage of legislation that limited immigration). Hopkinson (Fannie in the Kitchen) follows five transplants from Belarus, Italy, Lithuania and Romania who emigrated as children or teens (all of the subjects later wrote autobiographies or articles and speeches, which serve as the foundation for Hopkinson's text). Through them the author explores issues ranging from the bewilderment of greenhorns like 16-year-old Marcus, who didn't understand why his seemingly wealthy relatives ("[they] could indulge in the luxury of meat in the middle of the day") shared their apartment with half a dozen or more boarders, to the growing unrest of exploited laborers who gradually gathered the courage to agitate for better working conditions. She balances a highly readable discussion of change and reform with a look at the culture, joy and play that also characterized these vibrant communities. Throughout, period photographs ably support and highlight the text. Ages 8-12. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
At the turn of the nineteenth century, around 17 million men, women, and children entered America through New York City. This informative and fascinating book outlines the lives of five immigrants from Lithuania, Belarus, Italy, and Romania. To make the experience more real to her readers, Hopkinson uses the stories of immigrants who came as children, eager to leave poverty in their homelands and find better conditions, even wealth, in a foreign land. These hopeful children were dismayed to find the tenements of New York full of unemployment and filth. Children were often forced to perform tedious, grueling labor to help their families put food on the table and pay the rent. Mixing five individual stories with many staggering facts and figures, the author illustrates the despair prevalent in New York before laws were created to protect the people from child labor and unfit housing. However, Hopkinson also tells the stories of young people who defied the odds and succeeded in their chosen careers. Leonard Covello, for instance, came to the U.S. from Italy, six years after his father left to earn a better living. When Leonard, his mother, and his siblings arrived in New York, he was shocked to see that very few immigrants had gained the wealth he had heard about in Italy. Like all the other immigrant children, Leonard and his siblings were forced to work at a very young age. Amazingly, he did not lose his desire for learning and managed to go to school at night. He later graduated from Columbia University, became a teacher and a principal, and wrote an autobiography. This book includes many photographs of the tenements and the working conditions of the late 1800s and early 1900s. This wouldmake a wonderful instructional tool in elementary school classrooms as well as an interesting text for avid readers. An interesting companion text would be Tenement: Immigrant Life on the Lower East Side, by Raymond Bial. Bial's words and photographs illustrate the cramped and unhealthy living conditions of immigrants during the early 1900s. 2003, Orchard Books/Scholastic, Ages 9 to 12.
—Meredith Moore
VOYA
Hopkinson describes life in the tenements by artfully weaving together the firsthand accounts of five people who immigrated to New York as young teenagers at the turn of the twentieth century. After introducing their stories, she tackles her topic by subject, bringing each voice to comment on the physical conditions of the tenements, the work available to immigrants, play, education, and food. By incorporating direct quotes and nicely reproduced archival photographs, the author brings the tenement experience to life for the reader. Notes at the end fully document all her sources, while a time line and further reading give readers access to more information. The book is beautifully designed, with plenty of space given to the photographs, so that no page is text heavy. The square, open format definitely gives it the look of a "children's book," although middle school readers at the upper range of the book's audience will get the most out of this excellent source. There is little available on the topic for this age. Although both excellent books, Linda Granfield's 97 Orchard Street, New York (Tundra, 2001/VOYA December 2001) is a less engaging read, and Raymond Bial's Tenement (Houghton Mifflin, 2002) is for a somewhat younger audience. VOYA Codes 4Q 2P M (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2003, Scholastic, 134p.; Index. Photos. Source Notes. Further Reading. Chronology., Ages 11 to 14.
—Nina Lindsay
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Through the stories of five immigrants, the world of New York City's tenements in the late 19th and early 20th centuries comes alive with descriptions of the newcomers' struggles and triumphs as they attended night school, abandoned customs, or in other ways acclimated to life in America. Some came as children, others as teenagers, all eager either to succeed on their own or to help their families. Leonard Covello, who left Italy and arrived at Ellis Island with his mother and younger brothers six years after his father, became a high school principal. Pauline Newman began her working career in 1901 as a child laborer in the garment industry and later became one of the first women organizers of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. Citing sources, Hopkinson quotes frequently from her subjects' and others' writing, and provides a detailed and intimate picture of daily life in Manhattan's Lower East Side. The text is supported by numerous tinted, archival photos of living and working conditions. Although this book will appeal to students looking for material for projects, the writing lends immediacy and vivid images make it simply a fascinating read.-Carol Fazioli, formerly at The Brearley School, New York City Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Between 1880 and 1919, 23 million people came to America, most through the port of New York and most from eastern and southern Europe. Five young individuals and their experiences represent those masses in this well-conceived volume. Hopkinson covers the journey, Ellis Island, tenements, street life, work, reform movements, and education, always rooted in the actual stories and words of individual immigrants. Archival photographs-including many by Lewis Hine and Jacob Riis, excerpts from autobiographies and oral histories, and meticulous documentation, with a section on resources for young readers, make this an excellent model of historical writing. Hopkinson's enthusiasm for research, primary sources, and individual stories that make history come alive is evident throughout this excellent work. Nonfiction at its best and a good companion to Mary Jane Auch's Ashes of Roses (2002), Johanna Hurwitz's Dear Emma (2002), and other recent works on the subject. (foreword, afterword, timeline, notes, photo credits, index) (Nonfiction. 9+)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780439375900
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/1/2003
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 186,510
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 990L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.30 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Deborah Hopkinson

Deborah Hopkinson is the author of such award-winning children’s books as SWEET CLARA AND THE FREEDOM QUILT; GIRL WONDER: A BASEBALL STORY IN NINE INNINGS; A BAND OF ANGELS; and Dear America: HEAR MY SORROW. Her nonfiction books, SHUTTING OUT THE SKY, LIFE IN THE TENEMENTS OF NEW YORK, a Jane Addams Peace Award Honor book and an Orbis Pictus Award Honor Book; and UP BEFORE DAYBREAK, COTTON AND PEOPLE IN AMERICA, a Carter G. Woodson Honor Award winner, have garnered much acclaim.

Deborah lives near Portland, Oregon, where, in addition to writing, she works full-time as the Vice President for Advancement for the Pacific Northwest College of Art.

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Table of Contents

Foreword vii
Voices in this Book ix
Coming to the Golden Land 1
Tenements: Shutting Out the Sky 17
Settling In: Greenhorns and Boarders 33
Everyone Worked On 47
On the Streets: Pushcarts, Pickles, and Play 71
A New Language, A New Life 87
Looking to the Future: Will It Ever Be Different? 101
Afterword 112
Timeline 114
Further Reading 116
Acknowledgments 118
Selected Bibliography 120
Text Permissions 123
Notes 124
Photo Credits 130
Index 131
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