Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Letters from Rifka” as Want to Read:
Letters from Rifka
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Letters from Rifka

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  7,933 Ratings  ·  450 Reviews
Rifka knows nothing about America when she flees from Russia with her family in 1919. But she dreams she will at last be safe from the Russian soldiers and their harsh treatment of the Jews in the new country. Throughout her journey, Rifka carries with her a cherished volume of poetry by Alexander Pushkin. In it, she records her observations and experiences in the form of ...more
Audio CD, 0 pages
Published August 20th 2010 by Brilliance Audio (first published January 1st 1992)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Letters from Rifka, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Letters from Rifka

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*
A very interesting MG story about a Russian Jewish girl who gets separated from her family when they emigrate to America in 1919-1920. For some reason I was afraid the story wouldn't have a happy ending, but I was pleasantly surprised and glad for Rifka, after all that she endured alone.
Oct 31, 2008 Maureen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 01, 2011 Linda Lipko rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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

Katie Ulmen-Smith
May 01, 2016 Katie Ulmen-Smith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Letter From Rifka" by Karen Hesse, Holt Publishing, 1992. 148 pages. Genre: Historical Fiction, Grade Level:4-6, Lexile Level: 660 L, Guided Reading Level: S

In this historical fiction novel readers are brought back in time to the turmoil that shrouded many European and Eastern European countries specifically Russia during the 1919 Russian Civil War. The novel is about Rifka, a young blonde haired, blue eyed Jewish girl from Russia. As the story begins, Rifka and her family (her mother, father,
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
Jan 21, 2013 Janine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jamie Ayres
Jan 06, 2016 Jamie Ayres rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book to read with a sixth or seventh grade class as a way of slowly introducing the topic of the Holocaust (in our county, we really delve into that area in 8th grade). My whole class loved it!
Andrew Duros
Jan 06, 2015 Andrew Duros rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 19, 2017 Caroline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of my all time favorite books Out of the Dust is written by Karen Hesse, so I decided to give Letters from Rifka a try. I was not disappointed! Karen Hesse delivers a compelling, suspenseful, and eye opening book that I thoroughly enjoyed. However, sometimes it got into too much detail, and it did not sound like a thirteen year old girl was writing the letters. Overall, I loved this book, and would highly recommend it.
Melissa Namba
a much better book than anticipated. it tells the story of a girl moving from the Ukraine/Russia to the U.S. she has to go through different areas, including Antwerp. it is a brutal story with a lot of suffering. but she deals with it and grows.
Elizabeth Shepperson
It was really easy to read. I would say 3rd or 4th grade level. It was really sad at times and at other times it was happy. I picked it up because I was bored and I didn't think I would like it. I was pleasantly surprised how much I liked it at the end.It is about a young Jewish girl in the 1920s. Who is escaping Russia with her family. She meets different types of people on her journey that will change her life.
Nov 06, 2008 Dominique rated it liked it  ·  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
Aug 05, 2016 Brooke rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed reading this book. The book is about a Russian family's journey to America. The Nebrot family immigrated from Berdichev to the United States. The family went through Poland and Warsaw where the main character Rifka had to be separated from her family because she had ringworm. Rifka had to wait an entire year to go to the United States because she had to be cured first. Once she finally made it to America after not seeing her family for over a year, was so close when they told he ...more
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
Stacy Croushorn
Very good account of a child going through the immigration process.
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
May 07, 2013 Gale rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

Twelve-year-old Rifka Nebrot is about to embark on a year-long odyssey, both with and without her family. It is September of 1919 when her Jewish family must leave their town of Berdichev for the Russian army is searching for a deserter: her brother, Nathan, who had put the entire family at risk. Tucked away in her backpack are Mama's prized candlesticks and Rifka's precious volume of Pushkin. Enduring the humiliation of crude medical examinations several times, she tra
Dec 01, 2016 Hailee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As I read this book I realized the first time I read it which was in 4th grade I really took it for granted. I read the book and realized that Ellis Island really was heartbreaking for a lot of families. Imagine being 12 going from Russia as a Jewish believer being judged by everyone and going to the great America to try to find a new life. Imagine being left in Belgium while your family went to America because you caught ringworm because you were trying to be kind and fix a 16 year-old new moth ...more
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. A
Nov 05, 2008 Andrea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 03, 2015 Annikka rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Summarize the book:

Letters from Rifka is the story of the journey that Rifka makes with her family from Russia to the United States from 1919-1920. The story is told through letters that Rifka writes to her cousin, Tovah, that Rifka writes in a book knowing that she can never send them. Rifka starts in Russia where her family, who are Jewish, are trying to leave the country before her brothers are forced to join the Russian Army, and to escape the pogroms that were rapidly spreading across Russi
emma grace
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
Jul 26, 2016 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: j-ya
This was a quick read and a lovely little book. I would really like to read her Newbery book Out of the Dust now. Letters From Rifka follows young Rifka's difficult journey from her home in Russia to a better life in the United States. It is 1919 and the Russian Jews are being persecuted, tortured, and killed in an effort to divert the Russian peasants' attention from their rapidly collapsing government.

Rifka's family has familial ties in America and they see no other way but to leave their home
Apr 24, 2010 Ashley rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, atypical
Really 3.5 stars, this book carries us with Rifka and her family as they try to escape the oppressive situation being a Jew in Russia has created for them. It was particularly intersting to me for two reasons. First, the book is based mostly in fact. Hesse begins telling us her experiences talking to her Great-Aunt about how her family migrated to America and how those conversations became the bulk of this book. Second, the war in this book, and the persecution they were dealing with did not and ...more
Jun 01, 2010 Leeanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own
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.

Chris Connolly
Oct 17, 2013 Chris Connolly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: libs-642
Category (Fiction Choice)
Genre(Historical fiction)
Found on page 211 in the textbook
Newbery Medalist 1998

1. Description

Told from the letters of Rifka, a journey that crossed many countries and cities reveals the hardship of a Russian family who flees their country as the Government commands that the five-boys of the family be made as troops for the war. Fleeing from their home, the family delevops Typhus and is separated when Rifka's parents must leabe without her. With a continuous bald head, R
Nov 05, 2011 Elisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya-lit-2011-2012
*** 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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Play Book Tag: Letters from Rifka - Karen Hesse - 3 stars 1 7 Jul 18, 2016 11:40AM  
  • Immigrant Kids
  • A Picnic in October
  • Journey to America (Journey to America, #1)
  • Willow Run
  • The Upstairs Room
  • When the Soldiers Were Gone
  • Lyddie
  • Dreams In The Golden Country: the Diary of Zipporah Feldman, a Jewish Immigrant Girl, New York City, 1903 (Dear America Series)
  • The Scrambled States of America Talent Show
  • Friedrich
  • Morning Girl
  • One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping: The Diary of Julie Weiss (Dear America)
  • Behind the Bedroom Wall
  • Rose Blanche
  • In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson
  • Molly's Pilgrim
  • Hiroshima No Pika
  • Numbering All the Bones
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
More about Karen Hesse...

Share This Book