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

4.29  ·  Rating Details  ·  558 Ratings  ·  76 Reviews
"Hest simply and faithfully holds a mirror to the milestone event for millions of turn-of-the-century immigrants."— PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (starred review)

When a young girl from a poor eastern European village learns that she must leave her beloved grandmother for a new life - and a new love - in America, they both feel that their hearts will break. The sure and inspired narrat
Paperback, 40 pages
Published September 29th 2003 by Candlewick Press (first published January 1st 1997)
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(NS) Heatherk
Nov 02, 2009 (NS) Heatherk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
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
Jul 18, 2014 Alice rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 28, 2011 Wanda rated it it was amazing
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
Genaye Parodi
Jun 08, 2014 Genaye Parodi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Helen Tesfaye
Oct 24, 2015 Helen Tesfaye rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sasha Harriott
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
Jul 09, 2015 Mj rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Shelli Gheen
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
I really enjoyed reading this book, and how it mentioned the long trip, but focused on other aspects of the travelers life, instead of the trip across the ocean. It combined reality, love, and perfect endings all into one, which I enjoyed, but was also very unrealistic. I usually love happy endings, and the book was good, but it is just a little far fetched to what could have happened so many years ago.
Katie Logonauts
13 year-old Jessie is an orphan but is chosen by the rabbi to take his ticket to America. She lives with a cousin and sews lace to earn a living, eventually earning enough to bring her grandmother to America with her. Though she travels through Ellis Island, it takes only a page in the book. Much of the story focuses on her life in America and her letters back to her grandmother.
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
Mar 04, 2014 Camilla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Exquisitely illustrated with paintings that glow with warmth and carefully observed detail, When Jessie Came Across the Sea transcends times and culture in a tribute to the courage and hope of all who seek a better life." -- from the book jacket. I couldn't have said it better myself.
Abbey Madison
This was an amazing story about a young Jewish girl who emigrates to the United States to work with her "cousin" in a dress shop. This book is engaging, well-written, and the illustrations are wonderful. This book would be great for any grades 3 and above.
This book was about a girl Jessie and her journey to America. This had a lot of text but I enjoyed reading about Jessie's struggle and her success.
Sep 13, 2012 Dolly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Amy Rachuba
Kate Greenaway 1997 winner of an immigrant girl traveling to America. Good story, great illustrations.
Sep 24, 2014 Brandy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brandy by: Honey for a Child's Heart
Shelves: children-s-books
A beautiful story of a young girl's immigration to America in the early 20th century.
Mary Bennett
Apr 28, 2012 Mary Bennett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Christine Turner
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?
Chelsea Marie
This book can move you to tears.
Amanda Funnell
Beautifully written
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
If children grow up hearing this story, they may be more interested in the history of their own families. Sometimes, a family story may resemble Jessie's, but sometimes it may be very different. In either case, this story can plant the seeds of wonder. Why did my ancestors come here? Under what conditions? Where did they live before?

The art is worth studying; it will help the story come alive, even for the youngest kids.
Nov 17, 2012 Tiffany rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good historical fiction book to use in the classroom. Enjoyed the story line on how this young girl left home to come to America to better herself and then develops a love story along the way. Loved the ending when she meets up with her grandmother and friend Lou, who she then decides to marry. It is such a good story to read about. I think girls will be drawn to this book more than guys would. But over all this was a good book.
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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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