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A House of Tailors [Kindle Edition]

Patricia Reilly Giff
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $5.99
Kindle Price: $5.12
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

SEWING! NO ONE could hate it more than Dina Kirk.

Endless tiny stitches, button holes, darts. Since she was tiny, she’s worked in her family’s dressmaking business, where the sewing machine is a cranky member of the family.

When 13-year-old Dina leaves her small town in Germany to join her uncle’s family in Brooklyn, she turns her back on sewing. Never again! But looking for a job leads her right back to the sewing machine. Why did she ever leave home? Here she is, still with a needle and thread—and homesick to boot.

She didn’t know she could be this homesick, but she didn’t know she could be so brave either, as she is standing up to an epidemic or a fire. She didn’t know she could grow so close to her new family or to Johann, the young man from the tailor’s shop. And she didn’t know that sewing would reveal her own wonderful talent—and her future.

In Dina, the beloved writer Patricia Reilly Giff has created one of her most engaging and vital heroines. Readers will enjoy seeing 1870s Brooklyn through Dina’s eyes, and share her excitement as she discovers a new world.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

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
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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 Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 331 KB
  • Print Length: 160 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0385730667
  • Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books (November 30, 2004)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FC2NHQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #623,377 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The brave little tailor March 12, 2005
Historical fiction is that huge genre of children's books that I am just not as familiar with as I should be. The field tends to be dominated by such big names as Richard Peck and, in this case, Patricia Reilly Giff. As a child I was always far more interested in books of fantasy and magic, and I am afraid that very little has changed since I have grown. But "A House of Tailors" is one of those well-written works of historical fiction that can draw in even a fantasy-preferring twit like myself. Giff brings to beautiful colorful life the world of 1870 Brooklyn, New York. The dirt, the disease, and the small human pleasures of it all.

Dina is desperately jealous of her older sister Katharina. While Dina must stay in Germany doing what she hates most, sewing, Katharina is going to America to live with their rich Uncle. At this moment in 1870 Germany is at war with France, an annoyance to Dina who likes to swap patterns with her friend Elise on the French side. But when Dina escapes one morning to do her usual swap and is caught by German soldiers thinking her a spy, her escape can only be brought about one way. She will have to be the one sent to America and not her sister. Dina is embarrassed and distraught but the fact that she won't be sewing anymore is some comfort. Yet when she arrives in America, the streets her uncle takes her down become dirtier and dirtier. Finally they reach the last one, climb all the steps to the top floor, and enter the apartment. That's when Dina sees the sewing machine in the middle of the room and realizes that she has simply exchanged one house of tailors for another.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gift March 7, 2005
Dina's stitches are small and straight. She has a sense for color and fabric. Dina's gift is sewing but she hates it. She longs to go to America and live with her uncle and his family but when she ends up having to flee to New York from her home in Germany she finds her dream and the reality of life in Brooklyn are far apart.

Giff can put the reader into the setting of a story better than any other writer. In her novel, "Nory Ryan's Song," we knew when the blight had overtaken the potato crop because we could "smell" it. In this book we sense the crowded streets, the cooking in the tenements and the soot from the fires of Brooklyn in the 1870s. The crowding, disease and long back breaking hours of labor that were part of the immigrants life are accurately depicted. The joys of the her new land include her first taste of ice cream, a new friend, Johann, and her niece and nephew. Dina longs for her home and family in Germany but finds she cannot imagine leaving her new family and friends. She takes great pride in her talent for hat and dressmaking and ultimately makes a place for herself in her new country. Dina is a wonderful character full of strength and love.

Giff wrote this story as a tribute to her great grandmother. Her touching afterward describes which stories from the book which came directly from her own family history.
Patricia Riley Giff is one of the most honest writers I have ever read. She is like an accomplished musician, every note of her books rings true and touches the heart
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A girl's struggles in a creating new life for herself October 22, 2004
Ever since she was little, thirteen-year-old Dina Kirk has worked in her family's tailoring business. Her mother takes pride in working with Dina and her sister Katharina. Her mother's business cards read "Frau Kirk and Daughters - Tailors."

Through a strange twist of fate, Dina's dreams of escaping her sewing machine come true. She leaves everything that is familiar in Germany and moves in with her uncle's family in Brooklyn. She is horrified to discover that her uncle is also a tailor, and soon she finds herself sitting in front of a sewing machine again. Now Dina is miserable and homesick too.

Dina struggles to fit in with her new family and tries to stand up to her uncle, who is almost as stubborn as she is. Her family soon discovers how strong and brave Dina is in the face of adversity. She helps the family through a health epidemic and does what no one else dares to do when a fire rages at their home.

Dina is surprised by the closeness she feels for her new family and her feelings for Johann, a young man from a rival tailor shop. Dina's future is revealed at the end of the novel, and no one is more surprised than Dina.

Patricia Reilly Giff has created a spunky and believable heroine with Dina in A HOUSE OF TAILORS. Readers will enjoy her adventures while learning about the challenges that our ancestors faced when coming to a new country.

--- Reviewed by Renee Kirchner (
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A House of Tailors February 20, 2005
As this novel opens, we meet a family of tailors living in Germany. The mother and her 2 daughters work making clothes for others. The daughters, Katharina and Dina, find out that Katharina is being sent to America to live with an uncle. Dina is upset that her sister is going without her, but happy that she will be living out one of her life long dreams. After Dina becomes involved in a serious situation, the family decides it will be best for her to go to America in Katharina's place.

Dina is faced with several delimma's after arriving in America. She and her Uncle have trouble getting along. After one argument she decides to save money and go back to Germany. Will she ever make it home?? Then she is faced with another question..Where is home?

Giff has really created a masterpiece with "A House of Tailors". When I finished this book, I wanted to know what else happened to the characters. I wanted more! I think Dina is someone all readers will look up to. She copes well when placed in diverse situations. She can teach us all a lesson about ourselves, no matter what our age!
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More About the Author

Patricia Reilly Giff is the author of many beloved books for children, including the Newbery Honor books, Lily's Crossing and Pictures of Hollis Woods. She lives in Trumbull, Connecticut.


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