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When Jessie Came Across the Sea
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When Jessie Came Across the Sea

4.28  ·  Rating Details ·  683 Ratings  ·  87 Reviews
In an inspiring pairing, Amy Hest and P.J. Lynch create an unforgettable tribute to the immigrant experience.

Jessie lives with her grandmother in a poor village in the valleys of eastern Europe. When, to everyone's surprise, young Jessie is chosen by the village rabbi to travel to America, and to leave her grandmother behind, they both feel their hearts will break.

Hardcover, 40 pages
Published November 3rd 1997 by Candlewick (first published January 1st 1997)
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(NS) Heatherk
Nov 02, 2009 (NS) Heatherk rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical-fic
Jessie is a young European girl who looses her parents when she is young. She is raised by her Grandmother, who insists that Jessie learns to read and write from the rabbi. Jessie teaches her Grandmother what she has learned in the evening.

The rabbi chooses Jessie to travel to America to help his cousin in her sewing factory. Jessie is nervous with anticipation as she travels to the New World. Jessie makes a life for herself in America and brings the theme of coming to age to life in this book.
Feb 08, 2017 Nancy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, childrens
This beautifully illustrated book shares the immigrant experience of many eastern Europeans through the eyes of Jesse, a Jewish teen, who is awarded a ticket to America. She reluctantly leaves her beloved Grandmother and travels on the boat that will take her past the awe inspiring Statue of Liberty to Ellis Island. Other passengers of various ethnic backgrounds are shown, and Jesse befriends a young man named Lou. Taken in by a dressmaker in NYC, Jesse sews lace, and by chance re-meets Lou and ...more
Nov 02, 2010 Logan rated it liked it
Logan, who is 6 1/2, liked this book. He usually prefers books that are populated by animals, are fable-like in nature, or are swashbucklers. But he's listened to all three of the "All-of-a-Kind Family" books (which I highly recommend), which are about an immigrant family living in turn-of-the-century New York, so the this book worked as a kind of companion to that. He got to see pictures of what New York looked like at that time, what the clothes were like, and so on. Also, we'd talked about wh ...more
This is everyone's story, at least those of us whose ancestors came from Europe or other lands. Jessie is given a wonderful opportunity, free passage to America, but she is only 13 and has to leave the only home and family (her grandmother)she has ever known. But she is luckier than some because she has a place to live with Aunt Kay, and work she likes, sewing lace on delicate garments. Spoiler alert: She even finds romance with a friend from the boat.

Watercolor and gouache illustrations by P.J.
Allison Bass
Feb 20, 2016 Allison Bass rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wow-books
I really loved this book for many different reasons. I think that this book gives such a personal connection to immigrants and why they might come to America. The young girl, Jessie, in this book is sent to America by her Rabbi to sew in a shop in New York City. She is very scared to leave her only living relative, her grandmother, but has to get on the ship to sail to America. She arrives at Ellis Island and then starts working at the shop. She soon goes to classes to learn how to read and writ ...more
Jun 28, 2011 Wanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautifully illustrated history book for children although all ages will enjoy the story of the young Jewish girl who came to America. Jessie lived in the old country in a small village with her grandmother. When Jessie was thirteen, the town Rabbi received a ticket to America but felt that he must stay at the village with his people. Everyone in the village wanted the ticket to America but the Rabbit chose Jessie to go on the journey to the new country and start a new life for herself. Jessie ...more
Jul 18, 2014 Alice rated it liked it
3.5 Stars I love the pictures of this books. It is interesting to hear immigrant stories. It is interesting that people thought American was the promised land and the streets were paved with gold, but perhaps compared to Eastern Europe, it wasn't so bad.

I like the letters back and forth to Grandmother back in the home Country.

Why I can't give it a 5 stars. Well, it ended very suddenly. The story starts s l o w and then she is engaged and then Grandmother is here from the home country ...the en
Apr 02, 2012 Betsy rated it liked it
Lynch's paintings are lovely--especially the facial expressions (some artists really can't do faces; happily that's not the case with this book). But the story overall doesn't wow me. It seems a bit trite--too much crammed into too few pages, so the story feels a bit dumbed down or like an adult is talking down to a child. A bit predictable.
Lucia Benzor
Feb 22, 2011 Lucia Benzor rated it really liked it
Great add to a text set on immigration. The feelings and troubles that the European travelers experienced is told very well. Sweet ending with good illustrations. Also touched on how life was in the home land before coming here and tells a little bit about how life was on the trip coming to the country.
Lauren Innes
This historical fiction story follows the journey of 13-year old Jessie, who has been living with her grandmother since her parents died. Her one keepsake from her mother is her mother’s wedding band, which she keeps in a special “tiny silver box.” Growing up, Jessie’s grandmother has taught her some basic skills like reading, writing and sewing. Jessie always questioned when these abilities would become useful to her, but her answer would soon come, as one day the village rabbi selecte
Dana Burnett
1. When Jessie Came Across the Sea by Amy Hest is about a young girl, Jessie, who lived with her grandmother in eastern Europe. One day the Rabbi went to Jessie’s house and he told her that he chose Jessie to go to America to work in a dress shop in New York City. Jessie traveled by ship to America and once she got on the ship, she realized she forgot her mother’s wedding band. She was very upset and was missing her grandmother. On the ship, Jessie met a young boy named Lou, who became one of he ...more
Hannah Grosse
Nov 14, 2016 Hannah Grosse rated it it was amazing
A healthy combination of romance and logic, this book is a great one for most ages of children. The plot was intriguing but also realistic, as Jessie gets to the states and realizes it is not made of gold. The story had a simple elegance to it, and the illustrations were superb. I plan to own this book someday.
Lauren Waters
Jan 11, 2017 Lauren Waters rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Jessie's journey to America, and I think this book would pair nicely with clips from the film Brooklyn to teach historical fiction.
Jan 26, 2017 Danette rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books
Read with Julia.
Feb 28, 2015 Mj rated it it was amazing
P.J. Lynch is one of my favourite illustrators which is why I chose to read When Jessie Came Across the Sea. He only illustrates about 1 book a year and has been the winner of numerous awards, including a 3 time award winner of the Christopher Medal.

The Christopher Medal was first presented in 1949 and was established by Christopher founder Father James Keller to salute media that “affirm the highest values of the human spirit.” Their goal is to encourage men, women and children to pursue excel
Debbie Younkin
Dec 13, 2016 Debbie Younkin rated it it was amazing
I love historical fiction, especially fiction about immigrants who come to America. This book is beautifully written about a young girl who got an opportunity to leave everything she loved, her home, her grandmother, her land, to come to America. She learned the value of reading and sewing which helped her in her new life, which in turn allowed her grandmother to join her. Beautifully illustrated by the talented P.J. Lynch. The way he captures expressions and hands amazes me. Love this book!
Jun 25, 2015 Shamika rated it liked it
Text Set #5: When Jessie Came across the Sea tells the story of a young girl named Jessie, who is sent to America—“the promised land”—from her poor village. She leaves her grandmother behind, as well as the wedding band of her deceased mother. As Jessie works in New York City, she eventually gains enough money to send a ticket for her grandmother to join her in the city. Not only does Jessie’s grandmother join her, but her mother’s wedding band does as well. Although this book does not necessari ...more
Shelli Gheen
Mar 27, 2013 Shelli Gheen rated it it was amazing
When Jessie Came Across the Sea (1997), written by Amy Hest and illustrated by P.J. Lynch, is a beautifully illustrated tale of thirteen-year-old Jessie and her immigration to the United States. The story begins with the Rabbi of Jessie's town announcing that the ticket that his now deceased brother had purchased for him would be given to someone in the town. The Rabbi decides Jessie will be the one to go to America. Though both Jessie and her grandmother are saddened to part, Jessie promises to ...more
Genaye Parodi
Jun 08, 2014 Genaye Parodi rated it really liked it
This story is a nice read and enlightening. It tells more than just the experiences of someone moving to a new country. Jessie, a Jewish girl from the old country, is given a ticket to America by her Rabbi. She leaves behind her grandmother and hopes to save enough money to one day send for her. Although, this book is about the struggles of someone immigrating to a new country, there is also a important lesson taught. Jessie's grandmother teaches her to read and sew, which are very useful to Jes ...more
Nov 21, 2016 Eliza added it
When Jessie Came Across the Sea by Amy Hest is my second Historical Fiction book review. This picture book is about 13 year old Jessie who lives with her grandmother in a poor village in Eastern Europe. One day the rabbi announced that he has a ticket to America and he chose to give it to Jessie. Jessie has to say goodbye to her grandmother and get ready to sail across the ocean, where she meets Lou (a young shoemaker) who prepares her for her arrival in New York. This book is appropriate for st ...more
Julie Fischer
Jess was a young girl who lived with her grandmother; both of her parents had passed away. Jesse and Grandmother lived in Eastern Europe where grandmother was a lace maker. Jesse didn't like to make lace, but Grandmother insisted that she learn. "You will need to know this one day."

Grandmother felt it was unsafe where they lived in Eastern Europe and saved every extra penny she earned from making her lace to buy a ticket for Jesse to travel to America and live with Grandmother's sister .

As the
Sarah Brazytis
Jun 05, 2016 Sarah Brazytis rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
This is such a lovely book. Its simple wording has a cadence that bears a special beauty all its own. While probably geared towards children, all ages in our house from Dad on down like to leaf slowly through the pages - spectacular with our favorite illustrator's paintings, full of light and shadow and glowing colors - and let the story sift gently between the lines.
Any summary would be a terrible spoiler. Let us just say that this story is of faith and fear and strength and love and beauty; th
Helen Tesfaye
Oct 23, 2015 Helen Tesfaye rated it it was amazing
This book was about Jessie, a young girl who is from a rural part of Eastern Europe, traveling to America. Jessie was hand selected by her Rabbi to make this journey with a ticket he provided her. The book displays her challenges leaving her grandmother behind in Europe, and having to start a new life in a new world. This book relates directly to my topic because is providing an inside view of what it means for immigrants to travel to a new land. The quality of the book is outstanding and the il ...more
Esther Moss
Reading level: 3.2

Genre: Picture book - the book features detailed illustrations on each page

This book tells the story of Jessie, a young girl who leaves her family and travels from her native country and leaves her family. The story focuses on the challenges she faces being away from them and how she finds love even amidst the loneliness of her new life.

Mentor traits: Voice - the story is written using a beautiful, story-telling tone

Integration: I would use this book to connect with readers wh
Sasha Harriott
Jul 01, 2014 Sasha Harriott rated it liked it
This is a great text for students to be able to see the different ways an individual can be selected to go to the United States. Majority of the text students read regarding one’s immigration to America, focuses on their struggle to work hard and save enough money to purchase a ticket for their journey. In this text, Jessie was picked by the rabbi of her poor village in Eastern Europe to journey to America, showing one of the ways some people gain the opportunity to travel here. In addition, thi ...more
Sep 12, 2012 Dolly rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
This is a wonderful tale about an immigrant's experience coming to America. I have to admit that it's a bit sugar-coated, but on the whole, it shows the positive experiences of one young woman who discovers opportunity and love in America, even if the streets weren't paved with gold. The story ends abruptly and it left us wanting to know more about the characters and what happens next.

The illustrations are terrific; the people were so expressive and realistic. Overall, we thought this was a ver
Feb 25, 2010 Sarah rated it really liked it
This story relates the immigrant experience, with some simplification, so it will appeal to children. There is no discussion of the fact that she leaves a traditional Jewish community and ends up marrying a non-Jewish boy (with her family's apparent permission), and her ability to get work and survive on little income is not an issue. Still, the book does convey some of the experience of young adults who left their families and traveled to America, though not much of how the groups of these teen ...more
Christine Turner
Jul 20, 2012 Christine Turner rated it liked it
Shelves: historical
A thirteen-year-old Jewish orphan reluctantly leaves her grandmother and immigrates to New York City, where she works for three years sewing lace and earning money to bring Grandmother to the United States, too.


Teenage immigrants

Emigration and immigration -- Juvenile fiction.

Jews -- Juvenile fiction

Orphans -- Juvenile fiction

Grandmothers -- Juvenile fiction

Emigration and immigration -- Juvenile fiction.

Cataloged as Juv Fiction

Elementary and up?
Mary Bennett
Apr 28, 2012 Mary Bennett rated it it was amazing
When Jessie Came Across the Sea is a good book that tells an immigrant story. Jessie loves in a small village with her grandmother far from America. When the rabbi who lives in their town offers Jessie a ticket to America with the promise of a job, her grandmother urges her to go. Finally when in America Jessie works hard sewing wedding dresses, learning how to read and write and becomes engaged. Jessie pays to have her grandmother come to live with her. This book is a wonderful story that can m ...more
Dec 03, 2007 Carly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Grades 3-6
I really, really, really liked this book. The story is so beautiful and it made me cry. It is about a young, european girl who gets sent to America to make a life for herself and her grandmother and it has a beautiful ending. I think kids will like the beautiful illustrations and captivating story. It would be great to read during a unit on immigration in America and you could integrate an oral history project into it as well.
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Amy Hest is a three-time winner of the Christopher Medal and winner of the BOSTON GLOBE-HORN BOOK Award. She lives in New York City.
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