In this story, which was inspired by the author’s grandmother own journey, a Polish family flees war and hunger around the turn of the last century. They are immigrating to the United States to join the husband/father who went first. Nearly all of their possessions (which are already vanishing few by current standards) must be left behind. Their journey via foot and steerage-class is difficult. They don’t speak English. But they have each other and reach Ellis Island on Christmas Day, where they are met with kindness and decency and ultimately welcomed to their new country. We’ve been reading this book for years; this year it was especially meaningful.
Author: Maxinne Rhea Leighton Illustrator: Dennis Nolan
My brothers and sister and I grew up on a farm of steep, wooded hills and fields with rocks as big as your head. There was work enough on that farm to keep us busy all year long from dawn till dusk.
On winter nights, as the wind whistled ’round the house and snow piled up against the windows, our mother told us stories of how our Scottish ancestors left their rocky farms to journey to America for a better life.
We thought of the rocks here, of Vermont’s long, bitter winters, and of the hundreds of trees that had to be cut down to make a farm, and my brothers would say, “Why’d they ever move here?”
Then they’d argue about where they wanted to move to when they grew up.
“Think of all the things you’d miss,” I told them.
“Miss?” they said. “What would we miss?”
For the rest of the book, the author and her brothers provide points and counterpoints of the difficulties and joys of farm life. It sounds incredibly difficult and wonderful and very exotic to us suburbanites. The author ends by noting:
A few cousins moved away, to New York and Michigan and even one to Africa, but my sister, brothers, and I, and most of my cousins, are still here, sugaring and haying and cutting wood. We also cross-country ski and canoe and gather together to eat, laugh, and tell stories. And no one talks about leaving.
Author: Natalie Kinsey-Warnock
Illustrator: Mary Azarian
She could have picked a chiming clock or a porcelain figurine,
but Miss Bridie chose a shovel back in 1856.
Miss Bridie chose the shovel from the peg in the barn, and
she took it to the dock, where she stepped aboard the ship.
She leaned on the shovel as she rocked in the cabin while
she lived on the ship on her way across the sea.
Miss Bridie flung the shovel with her pack on her shoulder
when she stepped off the ship in the harbor in New York.
This quiet, beautiful book covers most of a lifetime and is a pleasure from beginning to end.
Posted onJuly 3, 2014|Comments Off on Houdini: World’s Greatest Mystery Man and Escape King
This is a wonderfully written and illustrated book about the greatest magician ever. Harry Houdini, born Ehrich Weiss, used books, his imagination, and pure grit to lift himself (and his entire family) out of anonymity and poverty into lasting, world-wide renown and wealth.
We came upon this book because I read The Houdini Box to my oldest and he wanted to know the real story behind the story. The boys love this real rags-to-riches tale and are fascinated by Houdini’s tricks, especially his escapes. Their favorite escape may be how Houdini would jump (handcuffed!) off bridges in front of huge (nonpaying) crowds, free himself underwater, and swim to safety (and sell out all his remaining performances in the area). As the book puts it, if you saw this, “You remembered it for the rest of your life.”
Author: Kathleen Krull
Illustrator: Eric Velasquez
Comments Off on Houdini: World’s Greatest Mystery Man and Escape King
Posted onMay 3, 2014|Comments Off on Bembelman’s Bakery
This is the origin story of a (fictional) hugely-popular bakery. Back in the Old Country, seven children decide to help their mama by baking bread. Like The Duchess Bakes a Cake, things quickly spiral out of control, but the flavor of this book is completely different:
“This is not just bread,” he cried. “It’s meat and potatoes!
It’s strudel and pie! It’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner all at
once! It’s apples and raisins, vodka and noodles, every taste
you ever wanted to taste, all in each wonderful bite.”
I always enjoyed this as a kid and it is now one of my youngest’s very favorites.
Caveat: Corporal punishment clearly is an option for this family, but the reference is fleeting.
Author: Melinda Green
Illustrator: Barbara Seuling