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A House of Tailors
Patricia Reilly Giff
Ages 10 and up
Wendy Lamb Books, 2004, 0-385-73066-7
  Dina Kirk hates sewing. Unfortunately for Dina, her mother is a dressmaker and sewing is what Dina must do day after day, week after week. It is ironic that Dina is in fact the best tailor in the family, producing tiny, even stitches, strong seams, and beautiful decorative embroidery. Nevertheless Dina still hates sewing.
  It is the plan that Dina's sister Katharina will go to America, to New York City to live with their uncle's family. Katharina has wanted to go to America ever since she was a small girl and she is very excited at the prospect. Then Dina gets herself into terrible trouble and the family have to protect her, they have to hide her. There is only one thing to do; Dina must go to America in Katharina's place.
  New York City turns out to be quite different from Dina's dreams. It is a dirty, hot place and her uncle's apartment is small and poor looking. To make matters worse, Dina discovers, as soon as she enters the apartment, that "this was a house of tailors." The very thing Dina thought she had escaped from was there in front of her. Dina is determined that she will not sew and she is also determined that she will go home as soon as she can raise the money for her passage.
  Poor Dina cannot run away from sewing however, and soon she is putting trousers together for her uncle on her uncle's old sewing machine. She reminds herself that the money she earns from her work will get her home, back to Germany, back to her pretty town on the Rhine River.
  As so often happens, things do not turn out as Dina expects. As time passes she begins to form bonds with New York and with the people that she gets to know. In times of trouble she finds herself defending and protecting her new family - her uncle, her sweet aunt, and her loveable, if difficult, little baby cousin.
  Drawing on the real story of her own great-grandmother, Patricia Reilly Giff has created a book that is full of surprises, powerful messages, and it is a wonderful tribute to the families who settled in New York City in the late 1870's. Poor and unable to speak English, life was hard for such people and it took great courage and hard work to survive. With the consummate skill that we have seen in her previous books, Giff weaves a tale which is intensely personal, and it leaves the reader feeling awed that such a simple story can be both extremely powerful, and very moving.

A House of Tailors


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