Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

If your name was changed at Ellis Island

If your name was changed at Ellis Island

Ellen Levine
Illustrator:  Wayne Parmenter 
For ages 7 to 10
Scholastic, 1994   ISBN: 978-0590438292

America has always been a country of immigrants but from the mid 1800’s and to the early 1900’s more people came to the New World than ever before. Twelve million of these people came through Ellis Island, a processing center for immigrants in New York Harbor.

By posing, and answering thirty seven questions, the author tells the story of Ellis Island, describing what it must have been like to be one of the people to go through that famous institution. She helps young readers get a very real sense of what it must have been like to arrive at Ellis Island after a long and dangerous journey. The newcomers had to have a health inspection and they had to answer a lot of questions put to them by the officials on the island. Often a translator was needed because many of the newcomers did not know a word of English. Sometimes the immigrants were detained and an anxious period of waiting followed. We find out what detainees ate and where the slept on Ellis Island and we also find out that some of them were sent back to the countries that they came from.

In addition to the historical accounts, the author adds a personal touch by telling us a little bit about some of the individuals who went through this experience. The author rounds up her excellent book by reminding her readers that many of these immigrants were not well received when they arrived in New York and yet they made great contributions to this country as a whole, contributions which we still feel, and enjoy, today.

This is one of the titles in an excellent series which explores history, historical events, and people from the past.