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Letters from Rifka

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  6,658 ratings  ·  367 reviews
"America," the girl repeated. "What will you do there?"
I was silent for a little time.
"I will do everything there," I answered.

Rifka knows nothing about America when she flees from Russia with her family in 1919. But she dreams that in the new country she will at last be safe from the Russian soldiers and their harsh treatment of the Jews. Throughout her journey, Rifka ca
Hardcover, 148 pages
Published July 15th 1992 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (first published January 1st 1992)
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Letters from Rifka is the riveting story of a young girl and her family who make a daring and courageous escape from the progroms of 1919 Russia. The story is told in a series of letters from Rifka to her cousin Tovah who is still in Russia. The family contracts typhus during their journey to the port where they hope to board a boat to America. They barely survive, but do make it to Antwerp, where Rifka is detained because of ringworm. Her family is forced to make the difficult decision to journ ...more
Although this is a compelling and suspenseful story, the epistolary/diary format really doesn't work. It's very hard to get those to work right, and in this case it has the usual problem: the narrative is WAY too detailed to make a convincing letter.

There is also the problem of Rifka writing facts in her letters that the reader doesn't know, but which her cousin clearly would -- like, listing the names of her brothers, when in a real letter she would just say "My brothers," and also explaining a
Linda Lipko
Karen Hesse also wrote Out of the Dust, one of my favorite Newbery award winning books. Once again, I am in awe of Hesses' ability to portray a historical period with characters who take us on a journey through time wherein the emotions and the setting paint a vivid image of difficult adversity.

This book is well deserving of the many accolades it received, including some of the following:

Horn Book Outstanding Book of the Year
American Library Association Notable Book
National Jewish Book Award

Bish Denham
Although a compelling story, there was something about this book that didn't quite work for me. It was somehow flat emotionally. Perhaps it was the letter format and the jumping around from tense to tense. Perhaps it was explaining things to her cousin that her cousin would obviously already know but had to be told so the reader would understand why things happened as they did.

I really wanted to like Rifka because her story is so big, but I wasn't able to connect with her. Her story is one that
Raevyn ~I Stand For Jesus~
The only thing I didn't like was that it said "Tovah" (character who the book was addressed to) in the middle of sentences a lot. I think people could remember who Tovah was without that. Otherwise, good.
Megan Cureton
Letters from Rifka is about a young girl that is 12 years old from Russia that wrote letters to her cousin Tovah. She has two older brothers, Saul and Nathan, with Nathan being her favorite. Nathan was in the Russian army and decided to flee and showed on his families door, so their father said that they are going to go to America, not telling anyone and leaving the rest of their family behind, including Tovah. In America, Rifka had three older brothers she has never met before. On their way to ...more
Andrew Duros
Andrew Duros
World Literature
Letters From Rifka
By Karen Hesse

Can you envision yourself being in a country alone while the rest of your family travels across countries without you? In the book Letters from Rifka by Karen Hesse, a young Jewish girl named Rifka, has to go through an experience such as escaping religious belief and running away from pogroms. She endures prejudice, displays family loyalty, and shows perseverance and growth.
In the early 1900’s, Russians are prejudice towards
The story of a Russian Jewish girl in 1919. Rifka and her family must escape to America, to be with her three older brothers; Isaac, Reuben and Asher, and to get away from the cruel Russian army, who forced her other brothers Nathan and Saul to join up, and stole from Jewish families everywhere. Rifka must be brave as she and her family face Russian and Polish guards, typhoid fever, terrible traveling conditions, and many more hardships. But the worst of all is when Rifka develops ringworm, an a ...more
Hanna Ballard
This book is made up of letters a girl named Rifka has written to her cousin, Tovah. Rifka and Tovah live in Berchidev, Russia. Rifka and her family must go to America because her brother, Nathan, as ran away from the army. They take a train to Poland. Rifka gets ringworm, so she has to go to Belgium. Her family is still going to America. She gets special treatment and loses all her hair. She gets sent to a 'hospital' on Ellis Island, New York. She meets a little boy named Ilya who is a Russian ...more
I think this book is really good. Rifka and her family escaped from Russia to America. But when they were in Poland buying the tickets to America. The doctor discovered that she had ringworm on her head. So she need to go to Belgium to cure her illness. Finally she went to Ellis island and entered the America. I think the title fit the story because in the book rifka was writing the letters to her beloved cousin, Tovah. So the title is call Letters from Rifka.
Amy Rae
Like Anna, I feel like I would have enjoyed this one more when I was in middle school. I loved diaries and epistolary novels (and this one is both, when you think about it), and of course, I loved historical fiction as much as I do now. As an adult, I wish there was a little more to the story--perhaps it's because my copy is especially tall and slender, but it felt slight. Would still recommend, however.

Superannoying fact: Goodreads doesn't actually list my edition, which was originally a school
Amanda Hayes
This captivating book is enough to get any young reader turning those pages. The story is based around a young girl and her family as they are fleeing their home country in a time of war. It captivates the audience and describes this young woman's journey and struggles to reunite with her family in America. Her story begins in Russia with her Jewish family and ends in America. She faces terrible injustices and prejudices during her journey. As a reader you will cry, laugh, and endure right along ...more
Letters from Rifka is about a girl who is traveling from Russia to America in the midst of WWII. It also shows how immigrants felt about coming to America. This book will make you cry and laugh many times.

Rifka’s journey begins when she has to distract the Russian guards, so they don’t catch her family sneaking into Poland. Since she has blond curly hair she is her family’s only hope until her Uncle Avrum arrives. After that she goes through many more challenges, like when she develops ringworm,
I truly enjoyed reading this book. As a matter of fact I could not seem to put the book down. I finished reading it in a day! I loved how this book talked about Rifka's journey to America. How brave it was for a 12 year old to live in a country without knowing anyone and being away from her family. I think it is a great way to show how some immigrants make their way to America. It shows that they had to go through many trials and situations in order to make it to their destination. I would defi ...more
the boss  is awesome
The best book Mrs. Christianson gave us so far!! I think that the girl was very brave going through all of this and actually getting into America! I don't think that I could have done it myself because it would be just too much to overcome because if you think about it you can't imagine how hard to get 2 diseases in a row and survive. I can't think of myself getting separated from my family and going to a place that I never knew because it is just really hard to lose your family. I think it woul ...more
Thanks to Jen for recommending this book after she read it with her kids. I've read Hesse before and enjoyed the brief immersion. I always enjoy learning about a specific time and place. There's something about seeing history through a character that is living it. It's much more memorable than just learning about history.

Hesse shows us the obstacles encountered as our heroine escapes Russia for the land of opportunity. Her trials are relayed through letters addressed to her cousin, who remains b
Letters from Rifka, by Karen Hesse

I first ordered "Letters from Rifka" from a book magazine when I was a kid, and it's a book I've held onto for about a decade.

Rifka and her family are Jews in a time when Jews are hated by the Russians. Jewish boys are enlisted into the Russian army against their will, forced to do hard menial labor such as digging latrines. Jewish families are terrorized, and are generally afraid for their safety. The only way out is to leave the country, and go to America.

Letters from Rifka
By Karen Hesse
148 Pages $4.99
New York, New York
Alexander Pushkin 1936
ISBN 90-14-036391

Poor Rifka, stuck, all alone by herself trying to find a way to meet up with her family. Trying all possibilities to reach her dreams from persecutions. This journey of hers is not going to be an easy one, all the obstacles she is willing to face in order to achieve her own freedom. Every time when it seems as if everything is over, something new begins and a whole new journey comes along. Al
pg 1 to 148
question #15: Summary
Rifka and her family come from Russia. there was nobody liked the Jewish people so Rifka and her family had to run to America. rifka rid a box-car to a small city, there they had to get on a bus and she met a woman with bald spots on her head. they came to a place where people checked out to find out who had ringworm or other dieses. if the had a diese they couldn't board the boat. Rifka had ringworn. it came from the woman on the bus. she had to leave behind her
This book is not what I expected. I though Rifka's travels to American would be different. So much of the book dealt with her being in one place for so long. I understand why she had to stay in the places she did but I just expected it would be more travel. That being said, I liked this book. it is such a great book to use in classrooms. Maybe in the lower intermediate grades it could be used as a read-aloud that would lead to great discussion and a link to history. In the middle school grades i ...more
Nov 06, 2008 Dominique rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: vanessa
In the book "Leets by Rifka "by Karren Hesse she expresse emotion.The book is historical ficction ,and touches alot of dramatic moments .The theme's of the book are immagration and Jews.
The main character of the whole story is Rifka.She is a teenage girl and just so happen's she is a jew..But something weird is she loks like a German.She can also speak hebrew.Unlike some Jews Rifka has long blonde curly hair that is admired in the book.She is a very family orriented person.Her family goes thro
This story made me think of my own family's experiences coming to America, especially on my Mother's side. Her father left Odessa, Russia to avoid having to join the Russian army. Just as the book said, Jewish boys didn't make it out of the army alive. He left Russia via Canada and then came to the US. Sadly he, like many of his generation didn't share the stories, beyond a few statements here and there, so we never learned why he came that way. Her mother's family came through Ellis Island in t ...more
Julie Suzanne
May 05, 2009 Julie Suzanne rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Julie by: My favorite social studies teacher and my favorite Reading teach
The story is keeping my interest, however, I found it very difficult to get into. I think that it would take a lot of patience and help to get my students started, as the whole epistolary format doesn't really go with the style of narration very well (no one writes letters with full dialogue and with such detail--you forget they're letters and then when you're reminded that they are, the whole thing seems implausible-credibility suffers). That aside, the narrative is compelling.

On page 56...

Laura Verret
Letters from Rifka is (as you may imagine) a series of letters written by Rifka, a twelve-year old Jewish immigrant, to her beloved cousin, Tovah. While Rifka, her family and friends are fictional, almost all of the events and details of the story actually befell Mrs. Hesse’s great-aunt Lucy who, like Rifka in the story, immigrated from Russia to America during Lenin’s regime.

The Story.

Although Jews, Rifka and her family have lived a tolerable life in Russia - true, three of Rifka's older brothe
Read this YA book aloud with Patrick for his "Battle of the Books" summer reading list. It's actually assigned for the 6th graders at our school, but he wanted to try out for the Battle of the Books team, and they have to read several of the books. He was finding it a bit of a downer, so I picked up and read aloud to him after about the first 30 pages - it was a quick read, we finished it in about 2 hours. Very well done intro for kids to the prejudice Jews faced in Russia after WWI (the pogroms ...more
I really enjoyed this book. I was able to sit down and read it in a little over an hour which I REALLY liked since my reading time is continually shrinking.

This is a true retelling of Hesse's Great Grandmother's story. we follow the adventures of a young girl, Rifka, who at 12 years old must flee Russia as a persecuted Jew. She and her family are trying to reach America.

The story is very moving. It is a great book for kids 11 and up who want to know more about how & why people immigrated to
*** In this historical fiction novel the reader is taken back in time to 1919 to follow a young girl’s journey from Russia to America. The story is written as a series of letters from the main character Rifka to her cousin Tovah who is still in Russia. The story was interesting but I wasn’t riveted like I have been with the last few books I’ve read.

Rifka is fleeing from Russia with her parents and two of her brothers Nathan and Saul. Russia is no longer a safe place to be Jewish and Rifka’s thr
Letters from Rifka is about a girl who is traveling with her family to America. They are a Jewish family escaping from Russia where her brother Saul ran away from the military and would be killed if they caught him. Rifka does not look like a typical Jewish girl, she has blonde hair and blue eyes so her family uses her to keep them safe when the Russian guards are around. Rifka and her family meet many, many challenges on their journey. There is illness, separationg and loneliness. Rifka has to ...more
Melissa Mcavoy
Twelve-year-old Rifka, her two older brothers and parents flee from Russia hoping to emigrate to America and join her three much older brothers already there. 1919 Eastern Europe was hostile to Jews and her family faces persecution, theft and disease on the journey. Rifka tells her story in a series of letters to her cousin, written in the margins of a book of Pushkin. A case of ringworm causes Rifka to remain in Europe until cured. Separated from her family and forced to live and journey on her ...more
Samuel Buncabi
This about the Nazis. The Nazis are invading Russia during World War II. They are invading and taking the Jews in Russia, and putting them in concentration camps. Not only that, but they are being killed. It is a war, and death is coming with the Nazis. The Nazis words come with hate. Not only do the Nazis bring death, yet fear also. Some are afriad, yet others knew that their turn would come. Hearing about it from Russia. Rifka is a girl who is trying to escape with her family to America. They ...more
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Karen Hesse is an American author of children's literature and literature for young adults, often with historical settings. Her novel Out of the Dust was the winner of the 1998 Newbery Medal and the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction. In 2002, Hesse was a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship.

For more information, please see
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