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Letters from Rifka Paperback – January 6, 2009
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“Hesse's vivacious tale colorfully and convincingly refreshes the immigrant experience.” ―Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“Told with unusual grace and simplicity, an unforgettable picture of immigrant courage, ingenuity, and perseverance.” ―Pointer, Kirkus Reviews
“What especially raises it above docu-novel is the emerging sense of Rifka's personality. Bald from the ringworm, poor and needy, she proves she's no greenhorn; she has a gift for languages, she's brave and clever, and if she talks too much, so be it.” ―Booklist
“Based largely on the memories of the author's great-aunt, this historical novel has a plot, characters, and style that will make it an often-requested choice from young readers. A vivid, memorable, and involving reading experience.” ―School Library Journal, Starred Review
About the Author
- Lexile measure : 660L
- Grade level : 5 - 9
- Item Weight : 4.8 ounces
- Paperback : 176 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0312535619
- ISBN-13 : 978-0312535612
- Dimensions : 5.15 x 0.46 x 7.7 inches
- Publisher : Square Fish; First edition (January 6, 2009)
- Reading level : 10 - 14 years
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #50,541 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Surprisingly, my son ended up being the one to enjoy this book most! Oftentimes while I am reading, he will be playing on the floor with toys. I had finally given up hope of him listening to what I was reading because a love of books isn’t something I want to force. To my delight, one day I asked if they were ready for me to read Rifka and his response was, “Yes, I love that book!” I asked him what he loved about it and he ended up reciting a full summary of the story. The whole time I was thinking he hadn’t been paying an iota of attention!
For me personally, I was surprised by how many details of this story I remembered two decades later. I know this book resulted in my first recollection of empathy, though I didn’t have a name for the experience at the time. In many ways, this book rocked my sheltered middle-class American world. Through this book alone, I realized kids experienced true suffering, things that had been unimaginable to me before. I understood discrimination and heartbreak, loneliness and longing, even hunger and pain in a completely new way.
I remember being awed by Karen Hesse’s writing. At one point she described a person creating a breeze in the air when they walked by. Such a simple thing, but as a kid, this realization of knowing another person experienced something I often observed was like an awakening. People could write anything – they could describe even the most mundane things and it became magical to me.
In third grade, I also moved away from the only friends I had ever known in my small hometown in Michigan for a cruel new school in Alabama. A school where I was mercilessly teased for my blonde hair, my white skin, the way I talked, and many other things. At the time, I wrote letters to my friends “back home” and drew strength from those relationships when I had no friends at my new school. Experiencing the letters Rifka wrote to her cousin, Tovah, allowed me to experience a sense of kinship. She knew what it was like to miss her home and all she knew, just like I was.
As an adult, reading this book to my children was one of the most nostalgic experiences I think I have ever had. I loved sharing this book with them and being able to explain the things they didn’t quite understand. We pulled out a map of Russia and Europe to follow Rifka’s journey as she traveled and they were able to gain a bit of worldly understanding. We talked about Judaism and the treatment of Jews throughout history. Overall, this book fostered a great learning experience for my kiddos and me. So many years later, this book is still making an impact in the lives and hearts of children and I could not be more grateful to Karen Hesse.