From Publishers Weekly
Twelve-year-old Rifka's journey from a Jewish community in the Ukraine to Ellis Island is anything but smooth sailing. Modeled on the author's great-aunt, Rifka surmounts one obstacle after another in this riveting novel. First she outwits a band of Russian soldiers, enabling her family to escape to Poland. There the family is struck with typhus. Everyone recovers, but Rifka catches ringworm on the next stage of the journey--and is denied passage to America ("If the child arrives . . . with this disease," explains the steamship's doctor, "the Americans will turn her around and send her right back to Poland"). Rifka's family must leave without her, and she is billeted in Belgium for an agreeable if lengthy recovery. Further trials, including a deadly storm at sea and a quarantine, do not faze this resourceful girl. Told in the form of "letters" written by Rifka in the margins of a volume of Pushkin's verse and addressed to a Russian relative, Hesse's vivacious tale colorfully and convincingly refreshes the immigrant experience. Ages 9-12.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4-8-Listeners will be immediately drawn into this compelling and touching story of Rifka, a 12-year-old girl fleeing to America from a Jewish community in Russia in 1919. Karen Hesse's author's note indicating that the story (Holt, 1992) is based on a chapter in her great aunt's life combined with the letter format and Angela Dawe's emotional narration provides a deep and layered intimacy that will connect listeners to Rifka. Although she realizes that it will be a difficult journey, Rifka is excited about arriving in America, connecting with brothers she has never met, and having the opportunity "do everything there." Through letters to her cousin back in Russia that she knows she can never send, written inside the pages and margins of a poetry book by Alexander Pushkin, Rifka tells her story of dealing with Russian soldiers, typhus, quarantine, a storm and sea, and more. Short poems preface each letter. Angela Dawe becomes each character, and she ably expresses Rifka's fear, despair, suspicion, and ultimate hope. Rifka grows and becomes stronger through her experiences, and this is palpable as Dawe expertly changes vocal tones. A fine supplement to the history curriculum.-Stephanie A. Squicciarini, Fairport Public Library, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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