Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

We Came Through Ellis Island: The Immigrant Adventures of Emma Markowitz

We Came Through Ellis Island: The Immigrant Adventures of Emma Markowitz

Gare Thompson
Historical Fiction  Series
For ages 10 and up
National Geographic, 2003   ISBN: 978-0792256823

Emma Markowitz and her family have to leave their home in Russia. For some time her people, the Jews, have been forced to live in an area called the Pale of Settlement where they are persecuted. When it seems likely that Emma’s brother Sasha will be forced to join the Russian army for twenty five years, Emma’s father Jacob makes the difficult decision to leave Russia and to go to America.

Their journey is a hard one, as is their passage through the famous, or perhaps infamous, Ellis Island. Once they are settled in their tiny, dark tenement apartment the family goes to work and they all do their best to find a way to ‘fit’ into their new country. Best of all for Emma and Nathan is the fact that they can now go to school – an opportunity that was denied them in Russia. For Sasha it is harder for he hates working in a sweatshop and finds happiness only when he is in the library reading.

In this superbly written little book readers will find the story of this courageous family in the form of letters and diary entries. We are able to follow their journey to America and then their struggles as they come to terms with their new circumstances and the American way of life that swirls and eddies around them. The young want to embrace the new ways whereas the parents want to cling to the ways of “the old country.”

Additional information is provided at the beginning and the end of every chapter which gives the reader an excellent historical perspective of the immigrant experience in late 1800’s New York City.