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Escaping to America: A True Story Hardcover – August, 2000
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From Publishers Weekly
Schanzer (How We Crossed the West: The Adventures of Lewis and Clark) recounts how her father, at the age of three, in 1921 traveled with his family from Sochocin, Poland, to the United States. The author's explanations of the conditions that drove her grandparents, Abba and Pearl Goodstein, to emigrate with their three children are vague and cursory, especially given the target audience. Of the political and historical context, Schanzer writes, "Several different armies were chasing one another across the countryside and fighting a terrible war." Then Schanzer notes, also sketchily, "The Goodstein family was Jewish, and many peasants did not like the Jewish religion. Mobs in Sochocin beat up elderly Jews and smashed their shops. Troublemakers were accused of being spies, first for one side and then the other." The narrative more compellingly conveys the flight of the Goodsteins. After narrowly escaping from soldiers, they meet up with an American woman sent by Abba's sister in Knoxville, Tenn., who had obtained the necessary papers and tickets for the family's passage. Schanzer's detailed and dramatic pictures have a few weak spots (awkward foreshortening in one illustration, for example, gives the impression that Abba is being surrounded by a squad of midgets, not Cossacks). For the most part, however, they offer an affecting portrait of the Goodsteins and draw readers into the tale. Ages 8-12. (Aug.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 4-In this outstanding addition to the growing body of immigrant stories, the author tells why and how her Jewish grandparents and their children left Poland in 1921 for a new life in America. The lively, compelling text and the inviting, colorful illustrations (with especially vibrant blues) perfectly capture the beauty of the once-peaceful town; the dangers as war enveloped the land; the excitement of the trip to America; and, finally, the pure joy upon arriving and meeting family already here. In varied, striking layouts, the illustrations burst forth onto white borders, inviting readers to search out details. Schanzer has provided an absorbing, personal account of the journey of her own family, but the experiences-the fears, sufferings, losses, and hopes for a better life-mirror what many of today's immigrants have endured, making this book timeless.
Diane S. Marton, Arlington County Library, VA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
The author's grandfather Abba (Hebrew for 'father') Goodstein was famous for acting and singing, could perform wild Russian dances, jumping high in the air and touching his toes to his fingertips. He had legendary strength and was so smart he could add columns of large numbers in his head in seconds flat. His wife Pearl played the mandolin. She could draw and sew lacy butterflies and birds in swirling plumes, and designed fancy buttons from seashells in the family's tiny button factory. At their restaurant--whose menu featured mushroom, herb and barley soup, homemade noodles and fresh bread--the family often also offered plays late at night.
Their village was set in a fern-filled forest near a river clear as glass. Pink-legged white storks nested atop the chimneys and geese, goats and wildflowers danced beside the winding country roads.
But when the Goodsteins' children Ida, Sammy and Ruthie were respectively four, three and one, war and hatred forced them to leave their home forever. As World War I raged, Abba stood outside his restaurant one day and was surrounded by Cossacks who pointed rifles at his chest. He fearlessly began singing a Cossack marching song in his brilliant strong voice. The soldiers left him, laughing and singing, too. Once, three soldiers stopped Pearl's father as they rode in their family cart, threatening to cut off the beard which Jewish law required him to wear. Abba knocked the soldier out and the other two fled.
An honest rabbi was killed one afternoon for wiping his forehead in an open window: He was shot as a spy trying to send signals to the enemy. While they sheltered the family from the shooting, family "friends" gave all the Goodsteins' things away, explaining afterwards that the Jews were going to be killed anyway.
Abba Goodstein wrote to his sister Yitta who had moved to Knoxville, Tennessee in 1907. Another 18 pages of true-life adventures follow the family's escape in August 1921. I won't spoil the exciting details, but the story is perfect for independent readers 9-and-up, or makes a fine read-aloud. Alyssa A. Lappen