Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Journey to Ellis Island: How my father came to America

Journey to Ellis Island: How my father came to America

Carol Bierman
Illustrator:  Laurie McGaw 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 10
Hyperion, 2005   ISBN: 978-0786854998

Yehuda Weinstein, his mother Rachel, his big sister Mindl, and his little sister Esther lived in Russia. They were Jews and because of this they were treated very badly by the Russians. Yehuda’s father had been forced into the Russian army to fight against Germany and he was never seen by his family again. Then the war came to the Weinstein summer home in Porusetz and Mindl was injured. After she died from her wounds Rachel decided that she had to get her family out of Russian and to America where her eldest son, Abe, was living.

Soon after leaving their summer home of Porusetz one of Yehuda’s fingers was badly injured by a stray bullet. Because there were no doctors where they were, the finger did not get proper medical attention and it became septic. It was only a month later, in the city of Kiev, that they were able to get a doctor to look at Yehuda’s finger. Unfortunately the finger had to be removed but after that Yehuda did much better though he had to keep his arm in a sling.

As soon as they could the family left their home in the town of Pinsk and went to Poland. There they waited to hear from Abe. Then, using the money that Abe had sent them, the family went on to Rotterdam in Holland and got onto a ship which carried them across the Atlantic to New York City.

The family’s troubles were not over however for the authorities did not want to let Yehuda off the boat. In fact they wanted to send him back to Russia because of his injured hand. Thankfully the captain of the ship liked Yehuda and his family and wanted to help. He suggested that the authorities should at least examine Yehuda before they made a decision and so the family were put on a ferry and sent to Ellis Island. Would Yehuda pass the medical inspection and would the family be allowed to leave the island to join Abe in the city?

Filled with illustrations, annotated period photographs and more, this picture book beautifully tells the story of one family’s struggle to build a new life in America. Written by Yehuda’s daughter, this is a story which will touch the hearts of readers of all ages and readers will be left with a very real sense of what it must have been like to come through Ellis Island as a poor immigrant from another land