book review, Books

When Jessie Came Across the Sea

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When Jessie Came Across the Sea by Amy Hest and Illustrated by P.J. Lynch

This beautifully illustrated story about a young Eastern European girl who travels across the sea to a new life in America, is one of those tried and true family treasures. Though my children enjoyed the story when they were younger, the real meaning kicked in starting at about 7 yrs old.
Jessie is 13 years old and the opportunity is given to her by the village rabbi to have his ticket to go to America. Jessie’s decision is fraught with uncertainty as she will have to leave the grandmother she loves very much and who has raised her.
Once in America, Jessie takes up her grandmother’s profession as a seamstress/dressmaker. Jessie works for 3 years to save enough money for her grandmother to come and be with her. The story and the illustrations are extremely panoramic and beautiful. It is such a pleasure to hold a picture book made for middle grade readers.  I recommend this book for read a loud or read together at age 6 or 7.
  • Reading level: Ages 6-12
  • Paperback: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick (September 29, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 076361274X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763612740
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 11 x 0.2 inches
Somethings To Do:
This book lends itself nicely to opening up the discovery and exploration into one’s heritage. We have jumped into this book as our own little family and we’ve done it within the confines of our bookclub. We welcome this book by opening conversations within our own families, about heritage, names, languages, and favorite foods.
Taking A Look:

What is your heritage and where to the various members of your family come from? When looking at geneaeology we always start with ourselves and work our way back. Here’s a place to find a variety of family trees to print out. It’s really so much fun to sit and help the children fill this out. We have very fun conversations about each person. Some of the people on our chart we didn’t even know but we just like the sound of their name, such as my Great-grand mother’s sister Lina-Stina-Petterson. This is also a great occasion to interview grandparents about their childhood. Have everyone in the family fill out a tree from different generations and you’ll come up with even more relatives, names, and stories.
When we’ve done this in a party setting, we always send a copy of the familytree to each family with the party invitation. That way they can bring it all filled out to the party. 

Finding Your Family:
photo from the Ellis Island Archives
Unless you’re Native American, your family came from a different country at some point. It might have been recently or several generations ago. One of the largest gateways into the United States was Ellis Island. People entering the United States from the 1850’s through the 1920’s probably came through Ellis Island. Look at your family tree and see if anyone on your tree lived during this time period. Were they born in the United States or did they come across the sea?
Have a look at the Ellis Island Website, put in a name on your tree and see if you can find your relative.
Immigration Pot-Luck

Sweden 2009 046

One of our favorite things to do with this book, especially with our bookclub, is to invite everyone to bring two dishes from their ethnic heritage. Along with the great food, everyone is to dress up as one of their ancestors and be prepared to tell everyone who you are and what sort of life you lived or are living. It’s really funny when one of the kids decided to be one of their grandparents and would reinact and talk about “The Olden Days” as if they were prehistoric times.
Heritage Crafts

Flags: Creating flags either  using wax-crayons, paints or construction paper make a nice activity.
Culture Collages: Research the countries of your heritage. Taking images from those countries create a collage to place as a screen saver, movie, or print them out and actually collage them to poster board. It If you’ve happened to have visited the countries of your heritage, use your family photos. Including photos of fun family moments,childhood photos of grandparents and parents, make for a nice heritage family memory board.
Wonderworks,visby
The Heritage Game

Sweden 2009 085

Another request that is made of our Immigrant Potluck Supper guests or family dinner participants is to pack a small suitcase,trunk, or backpack. One is to reflect on what is important to them and what they would want to bring to the “New World”. The rule was one trunk per person. Most people travelled with a sack of some kind. People who left their countries never or rarely went back to their place of birth. What they would take with them would be all they had to remember their family, country and friends. People did write letters back and forth but it would take weeks to get news from someone and many times the letters didn’t make the crossing of the Atlantic ocean.
Here are a few ways to bring this book to life. I hope you enjoy this lovely book and the celebration of heritage and culture.

1 thought on “When Jessie Came Across the Sea

  1. A homeschooling parent or a teacher could use this post as a lesson plan for a whole study on family heritage. You have a broad range of activities here to enrich a child’s understanding of their own culture or that of others. Your jump into a book posts are so rich in ideas and projects to go along with your featured book.

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