From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 3?In a perfect combination of text and illustration, the story of Valentina and her family, immigrants to the U.S. from Russia at the turn of the century, unfolds in an absorbing, satisfying way. Papa, who sang and laughed when he sold vegetables in Russia, is exhausted and quiet after his days of bricklaying. Mama and Aunt Katherine sew piecework for hours. Michael drops out of school to work for a baker. All their earnings go into the dream jar to finance a store of their own. Valentina is crushed because she is too little to do anything but go to school and help care for her younger siblings. Her scholastic proficiency, however, soon has her teaching her father, brother, and neighbors how to read and speak English. The writing style is simple but vivid and expressive, with convincing dialogue and a good flow and rhythm for reading aloud. The plot is familiar, and of course there is a happy ending, but it comes from hard work and sacrifice. Education and family life are valued, and love shines through the entire narrative. Graham's muted oil paintings have a diffused softness, a luminescence, and express the dream-filled reality of the theme. Full- and double-page spreads and vignettes give an attractive variety to the format. Every character has a definite personality, and Valentina is a winsome child whose eyes shine with spirit and energy.?Patricia Pearl Dole, formerly at First Presbyterian School, Martinsville, VA
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Ages 5^-9. Pryor's classic, upbeat immigration story of hard work, family togetherness, and the fulfillment of the American dream is set in a New York City neighborhood at the turn of the century. Valentina remembers when her father was a farmer in Russia. Now he works long, hard hours as a bricklayer in America. Her mother does piecework sewing at home. Valentina wants to help, but Papa tells her she must go to school "and learn to be a real American girl." She's jealous when her brother brags about the money he earns, but then she finds her own job: she teaches her family and their immigrant neighbors to read English. Papa gets a better job, and the family finally find their dream: a house of their own and a general store. It's an idyllic story, and Graham's handsome oil paintings in rich shades of blue and purple show a smiling happy family, even in hard times. He captures the rushing energy of the busy streets and tenements of the Lower East Side. Most moving is the scene of the adults crowded around the kitchen table after dark while the child teaches them what she has learned in school. Hazel Rochman