Sweet America: An Immigrant's Story


Bring history to life with compelling stories,

sweeping scope, and a welcoming sense of diversity

  • Historical fiction helps students connect to their middle school


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Bring history to life with compelling stories,

sweeping scope, and a welcoming sense of diversity

  • Historical fiction helps students connect to their middle school

    social studies classes

  • Reading skill instruction and cross-curricular connections improve

    comprehension of historical fiction

  • Strong multicultural flavor reflects the rich tapestry of our shared

    American heritages

Jamestown's American Portraits, a saga of American families and friends,

traces the history of America from the founding of Jamestown to the Civil

Rights Movement. This is a unique, enriching series designed to teach

reading strategies appropriate for historical novels used in middle school

reading, language arts, or social studies classes.

  • Reading Level 5-8
  • Interest Level 6-8

In 1889, after he and his family emigrate from Italy to New York City, fourteen-year-old Tony tries to adjust to becoming an American, while avoiding an Irish gang and befriending photographer and social reformer Jacob Riis.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
In this entry in the series "Jamestown's American Portraits," 14-year-old Tony Petrosino's story unfolds as his family crosses the Atlantic Ocean from Italy to make a new life in America. The journey is tough, but life in New York may prove to be tougher. Tony finds himself on the wrong side of gangs, giving up an education that he wants, and being throw out of his own home and onto to the streets for standing up for his beliefs. With times so hard for immigrants that his father can not find work to support his family, every member of the family must do their part. Tony has to quit school and work as a newspaper boy, but he keeps dreaming that some day he will be able to go back to school and be more than his father. He has to think quickly and manage to stay out of harm's way when a gang decides to target him. The author takes the reader into the late 1800s and helps the reader experience this time period when the majority of families had to put their children out into the streets to survive. The limited number of pages in this book make it hard to develop Tony's character, but the author did a great job. We see Tony mature as he finds his way in this new world. The obstacles and how he conquers them seem real and make this story believable. 2004, Waterbird Books, Ages 8 to 12.
—Julia Beiker
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-The obviously educational intent overtakes the story in both of these books. In the first title, Petey's formerly comfortable family struggles through the Great Depression in the Chicago area while his cousin, the son of a wealthy factory owner, joins the union movement. The plot seems designed to set up a situation in which the struggle of the workers for rights clashes with free-enterprise beliefs that the boss makes the decisions. Collier tugs at readers' heartstrings with an ominous and abrupt ending, but amid a wealth of detail and political discussion, the humanity of the characters is lost, and with it the capacity of readers to care. In Sweet America, Kroll shows 14-year-old Tonio's gradual transformation into Tony, a hardworking immigrant striving to survive and succeed in New York City at the end of the 19th century. Predictable difficulties with gangs, overcrowded tenements, layoffs, and the generation gap almost, but not quite, overcome lively Tonio's charm. The talents of both of these writers are wasted in these lackluster offerings.-Carol A. Edwards, Sonoma County Library, Santa Rosa, CA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780809206223
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education
  • Publication date: 2/12/2001
  • Series: Jamestown American Portraits Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 144
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

McGraw-Hill authors represent the leading experts in their fields and are dedicated to improving the lives, careers, and interests of readers worldwide

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Table of Contents

It's 1889. Tony Petrosino is 14 years old. He comes from a poor village in Italy. He has been in America for two years.

Tony and his family live in a cramped tenement apartment in New York's Little Italy. His papà has seasonal work laying streets. His mamma sews garments and makes artificial flowers at home. Tony, his two brothers, and his sister do what they can to help.

But Tony wants to do better. Struggling with neighborhood gangs, working as a part-time newsboy, he has learned English and graduated from the eighth grade. Now he'd like more education, but his papà, stuck in Old World ways, says no!

Tony must become a full-time newsboy. He must give more to the family. Tony wants to rebel, but he is loyal to his family. His decision will begin the widening of his experience. His story and its conclusion will fascinate lovers of history and fiction alike.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2004

    Teggiano, Italy

    My primary reason for reading this story was because the family came from Teggiano, Italy. This is where my father is from. Although my father did not come to America as a child he came as an adult. I just felt I had to read it because of where the family came from. It was very enjoyable and I've told many of my relatives about the book for the same reason. Thanks.

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