From School Library Journal
Grade 5-8–This novel is rich with believable, endearing characters as well as excitement and emotion. Dina, 13, can't wait to leave Germany and begin her new life in America with Mama's rich brother and his family. She longs to finally escape the drudgery of her mother's sewing shop, even though she is often reminded, "As much as you hate sewing, Dina, that's how much the needle and thread love you." As soon as she arrives at the cramped, five-story walk-up, however, she knows that she has entered a house of tailors, "no different from my own, except that it was poorer." Though she helps Aunt Barbara with the house and baby Maria, Uncle Lucas views her as a burden. She has no choice but to sew for him, her only consolation being the 40 cents he will give her each day toward her passage home. Gradually, Dina grows to love her new family, meets another "greenhorn" with whom she can reminisce and trade new American words, and becomes a promising hat and dressmaker. She also nurses Barbara and Maria through smallpox and carries the child to safety during a devastating fire. Readers get a glimpse into life in Brooklyn in the 1870s, especially the dreaded Health Department inspections during the epidemic. Sprinkled with letters from home, the story captures the universal immigrant dilemma, "we would always have a longing to go back, and a longing to stay."–Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools
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Gr. 4-7. In 1870, 13-year-old Dina is forced to flee Germany after being mistaken for a spy, and she takes her sister's place on a ship to America, where she will live with Uncle, his young wife, Barbara, and baby Marie. After arriving, Dina finds herself in Brooklyn, sleeping in a stifling closet. Worst of all, she must earn her room and board by sewing. Although talented, Dina despises the work, but sewing is part of Uncle's plan to improve their situation, so Dina finds herself either at the machine or doing the endless work of a tenement life. There are many books about immigrants in the U.S; the strengths of this one are its profuse details and its cranky heroine. And a heroine Dina is, sometimes exaggeratedly so, as when she saves both Barbara and Marie from a fire. Yet, Dina is not a stock character; she's a real child, who works hard, literally and figuratively, to find her way. When she realizes that designing dresses is something she loves, readers will cheer her perseverance, and the happy ending seems well deserved. Ilene CooperCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved