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A House of Tailors

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  698 Ratings  ·  102 Reviews
SEWING! NO ONE could hate it more than Dina Kirk.

Endless tiny stitches, button holes, darts. Since she was tiny, she’s worked in her family’s dressmaking business, where the sewing machine is a cranky member of the family.

When 13-year-old Dina leaves her small town in Germany to join her uncle’s family in Brooklyn, she turns her back on sewing. Never again! But looking fo
ebook, 160 pages
Published November 30th 2004 by Wendy Lamb Books (first published 2004)
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KidsFiction Teton County Library
J Giff, Patricia Reilly

Youth Dept - 5 stars

I LOVED this book and couldn't put it down until I finished it - it grabbed my interest from the very beginning!

A great story by two-time Newbery Honor-winning author Patricia Reilly Giff, this is a story based on the author's grandmother's journey to the United States. Set in the late 1800's, the story begins in Germany during a time of war. Dina, the main character and daughter of a tailor, is a young girl who always finds her way into trouble and one
Coming of age story of a girl moving to the US from Germany in the 1870s. I think I would have liked it better if I were in middle school (the target audience), but I've pretty much read my fill of sassy girls learning to get along in new places (Witch of Blackbird Pond - blech). Plus, it felt more like the outline of a book than the book itself. Even though the story is told in the voice of the adolescent girl, the distance between the narration & the story and the quick fast-forwards (sudd ...more
Aug 29, 2011 Eva rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thirteen year old Dina sails from Germany to America by herself in 1870 convinced she is moving from a life of sewing for her mother to her rich uncle's home. She hopes never to have to sew again. She enters Uncle Lucas' tiny apartment in dirty, dingy Brooklyn to see a sewing machine enthroned in the main room. Her uncle works in service, caring for the carriage horses and the lawn during the day, and sews at night. He dreams of owning his own tailoring shop, but doesn't have enough money. Dina ...more
Kylie Martinez
Aug 19, 2016 Kylie Martinez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
This book took me about an hour and a half to read (with interruptions) so please read it! It was such a lovely story, one of Dina who loved to eat and hated to sew. I teared up at work and smiled continuously. Also, read the Afterword. It makes you love the book that much more! I love simple and beautiful stories!
Hannah S.
Dina, a 12 year old girl in Germony is sick of her life as a tailor. One day she gets mistaken for a spy and is sent to America to hide. The book was fairly good, but the ending was incredibly stupid.
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
Excellent depiction of what it was like for a German immigrant to NYC in 1871.
Jan 11, 2017 Vivian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tween
Dina is jealous that her older sister has a ticket to go to America and live with their mother's brother because at age thirteen she is thoroughly tired of sewing for the family business. The tables turn when she gets into a scrape that sends her to America in place of her sister, only to find out she will still be required to sew, now for her Uncle's family business.

She faces loneliness, language barriers, disappointment, illness, fire, loss, and humiliation. She also finds friendship, strength
Dec 19, 2016 Phyllis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed it but it was too short - I wanted more of the characters. Set in the 1870's in Brooklyn with a 13 year-old arriving from Germany. Her dressmaking skills lead her into the American life. Some touching moments, some poignant, some funny, but too few...
Genre: Junior Book, Historical Fiction

Summary: A young girl moves from her homeland of Germany to the city of Brooklyn in the 1870's. Dina wants to leave her old life behind in search of her new one, but soon finds there will be obstacles no matter where she is.

A. The main character, Dina, possesses traits that the audience (middle school aged children) can relate to. She is quick to judge, stubborn, and hard headed, but she also has a heart when it counts.

B. Some of the scenarios Dina has to
Nov 05, 2012 Traci rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Genre: Junior Historical Fiction


13 year old Dina has worked in her families’ dressmaking business sewing for as long as she can remember. She leaves her home in Germany to live with her aunt and uncle in New York, and vows to leave sewing behind as well. She eventually learns that life is a struggle and is brought back to sewing as a way to support herself. She is homesick, but faces struggles bravely and eventually feels at home in Brooklyn.


(a) This book tells a vivid and accu
Cindy Dyson Eitelman
You've heard this before.  I wish I'd read this book as a girl.

It's a lovely, lively adventure of a German girl sent to Brooklyn to live with "The Uncle" and his wife.  It's set in the 1870's during the era of the Franco-Prussian war and it appears to be beautifully researched.  They need to make it into a graphic novel or an illustrated edition--that would be splendid.  Maybe there is one--I was listening to the audiobook.  No pictures.

If I were twelve again, and if there had been pictures of t
Bridget R. Wilson
[I liked this a lot more than her Irish books. I'm still waiting for her to top Pictures of Hollis Woods.:]

Dina Kirk's impetuous nature (She just had to have that French hat patten!) causes trouble with the local soldiers. She goes to America in her sister's place. America has always been her dream. There she can escape the endless monotony of her mother's sewing business.

Her dreams of America are dashed when uncle shows her his sewing machine. He expects Dina to earn her keep by sewing. Dina's
Jan 08, 2016 Hannah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A House of Tailors is a book I'd read years ago. It's always good to come back and reread a book from your childhood, because you get the world more now, and you understand all those old-sounding sentences that you didn't before.

I don't really like Dina. She doesn't seem sorry half the time for what trouble she imposes on the Uncle. But her bravery and audacity takes her places that her sister Katharina would never have traveled to, because of that spirit. That's admirable.

It felt like the book
May 21, 2010 Heather rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-ya
Three and a half stars, actually. Interesting characters, plot and historical setting. Troubling things happen to Dina and her family, but not nightmare-causing. The author loosely based the story on her great-grandmother -- I like that!

One little thing bugged me: we listened to this on CDs, and the narrator read all of the dialogue of Dina and her family with a pronounced German accent.(The rest of the book did not have an accent, so it wasn't because the narrator herself had an accent.) It bo
Jun 30, 2008 Kristen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Another one we listened to on tape on our drive. Great story about a young girl who is sent to America to protect her from trouble she has inadvertently got into in Germany. She is the daughter of a tailor and has had to sew all her life. The one good thing about leaving Germany is that she will never have to sew again, or so she thinks.

Turns out the uncle is a tailor too, and expects her to earn her keep by sewing for him. She does so grudgingly, and always looking for a way to make money to h
this book was very good. i think the theme of this book is show who you are and do not hide your talent.When 13-year-old Dina leaves her small town in Germany to join her uncle’s family in Brooklyn.Dina is a very talented sewer. she didn’t know that sewing would reveal her own wonderful talent—and her future. She didn’t know she could be this homesick. Dina struggles to fit in with her new family and tries to stand up to her uncle, who is almost as stubborn as she is. Her family soon discovers h ...more
Miss Amanda
gr 5-8 145 pgs

1870 Breisach, Germany/Brooklyn NYC. 13 year old Dina hate to sew, but every day that is all she and the rest of her family do. Dina longs to go to America and live with her rich uncle where she'd never have to sew again. But her uncle didn't ask for her, he ask for her older sister to come! When a German soldier (set during the Franco-Prussian War) accuses Dina of spying, Dina must take her older sister's place on the ship. When she arrives, Dina discovers that her uncle isn't ric
Oleg Kagan
Jun 02, 2011 Oleg Kagan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poor-people, new-york
A House of Tailors is a wonderful book. It has many of the things I enjoy: an interesting occupation (tailors), a talented main character (teenager Dina Kirk, who can really sew), Brooklyn a bit (well, thirty years) before the turn-of-the-century, an immigrant story, and a tender plot that pulled at the heartstrings.

Though it is normal for a short chapter book to skip out on many historical details, here Reilly Giff includes just the right details. I may look into those sanitation men that walk
Sophie Mulder
Oct 02, 2014 Sophie Mulder rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book! It is a level Y. I would give this book 5 stars!!!

This book is about a girl who lives in Germany during a war. Her mom owns a sewing shop, and she and her sister work in it, but there's one thing, she hates sewing. But one day, as she crosses the river to France, to trade a fabric pattern with her friend, she gets caught by German guards who mistake her for a French spy. She has to use her sister's passage to go to America. When she gets to America, she finds herself forced to
May 27, 2011 Pam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A House of Tailors by Patricia Reilly Giff 3/5 stars
This was a sweet book written for what I believe is called the "young adult" genre. Although I can't see too many girls over the age of 13 being wild about this book. And no boys. It's a decidedly un-cool book.

But, as a grown-up, I enjoyed the family dynamics and relationships almost more than the story ... maybe because of my years of experience? I think the relationships would be lost on most teenagers.

Anyway -- a fast, sweet read, which was
(NS)Jennifer Reiner
In this story, Dina, 13, can't wait to leave Germany. She will begin her new life in Brooklyn with Mama's rich brother and his family. Dina can't want to leave her mother's sewing shop even though her mother reminds her that "the needle and thread love you." When she enters as five-story walk-up, she realizes that she has entered a house of tailors. Dina helps Aunt Barbara with the house and baby Maria, but her Uncle Lucas sees her as a burden. Dina makes forty cents a day as she sews for him. D ...more
Jul 03, 2011 Brett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Giff writes another children's historical gem, based on her own family history. Dina Kirk hates sewing but has to do it all the time to help her mother's tailoring business. When her Uncle, who lives in America, agrees to have her older sister move in with him & his family, Dina dreams of leaving Germany herself & never sewing again. A mistake that leaves Dina in severe danger means that her dream is coming true - but upon reaching her Uncle's house in Brooklyn, she realizes that America ...more
Mar 08, 2014 PJ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The setting begins in Germany when Dina takes her sisters place and comes to Brooklyn to live with her uncle who is a tailor. Dina did not wanted to sew once she arrived in America but realized she had to in order to save money to return to Germany. Dina does not get along with the uncle but becomes very close to his wife, daughter, and a boy she meets at the park. There are many challenges (fire) and in the end Dina needs to make up her mind if she will return to Germany or stay in Brooklyn wit ...more
Mar 23, 2010 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable historical fiction, but a little on the short side for girls in the 10-14 age range, who I would expect would be the target audience (since the main character is 13/14). I would have liked the story to go on a bit longer myself.

The characters seemed realistic and the main character was easy to relate to. I liked the inclusion of the afterword, which notes that the main character is loosely based on the author's great-grandmother. Girls who have learned to sew or who are interested in
I'm a fan of Patricia Reilly Giff, and this now ranks as one of my favorites. Dina has a gift for sewing but she hates it. She longs to escape to America and is extremely jealous when her older sister and close friend Katharina is going to get to go. But unexpected circumstances send Dina to the US to live with her uncle, who makes his living sewing and needs Dina. The circumstances to get Dina out of the country seem preposterous, but I really loved the rest of the story, so I can overlook that ...more
It's interesting Patricia Giff's books, since common themes run through them - family, embracing a skill, friendship found in different and unexpected places. I felt as I was reading it, however, that it was too closely linked to her other books. I could see how struggling readers would grasp onto these books since the themes are so evident. I felt this was more "challenging" than Pictures of Hollis Woods, but only because of the historical context and kids need to understand WWII and the social ...more
Jun 12, 2012 Jen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finish
It didn't really grab me. I know the protagonist was a young girl, but I kept wanting to reach into the book and slap her because she kept doing dumb things and getting into serious trouble. I hate it when the plot only moves along because one of or multiple characters does stupid things and has to fix and or deal with them. This was one of those books where I had no empathy with the main character. I couldn't enjoy it, so I didn't finish it. It was written well though, hence the 3 stars.
Jul 13, 2010 Nielson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to this book on CD and I really enjoyed it. I thought the narrator did a really good job. I really liked Deena's strong-willed character. I think the neatest thing about this story is that is it based on a true story of the author's great grandma. I loved listening to the afterward where the author talked about the real Deena's life. I'm so glad she ended up embracing her talent of sewing and that she stayed in America. Cute, sweet book about how sometimes life doesn't always go how w ...more
Jessica Goates
Oct 23, 2013 Jessica Goates rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-read-to-ems
I loved this book. I have read a few of Giff's books, but this one was my favorite. The story is simple and tells of a the experience Dina had coming to america to live with her aunt and uncle, leaving her family behind in Germany. Perhaps the story was a little far fetched, but it was still beautiful and had a lot of lessons/morals that would be fun to talk about after reading with my girls. I would highly recommend this book to others who either want an easy read or who want a family appropria ...more
Jen Sculli
Aug 22, 2010 Jen Sculli rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was the first audio book that I have ever listened to and I definatley enjoyed the also made a trip to CT that much shorter! I did find that I had a more difficult time maintaining attention to the story than if I was reading it. I think that was due to the fact that it is easier to just stop and start reading with distractions. This was the story of a young immigrant girl's journey and new life in Brooklyn and the realities of what she thought life would be versus the reality ...more
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PATRICIA REILLY GIFF is the author of many beloved books for children, including the Kids of the Polk Street School books, the Friends and Amigos books, and the Polka Dot Private Eye books. Several of her novels for older readers have been chosen as ALA-ALSC Notable Books and ALA-YALSA Best Books for Young Adults. They include The Gift of the Pirate Queen; All the Way Home; Water Street; Nory Ryan ...more
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