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Letters from Rifka

3.89  ·  Rating Details  ·  7,319 Ratings  ·  417 Reviews
In letters to her cousin, a young Jewish girl chronicles her family's flight from Russia in 1919 and her own experiences when she must be left in Belgium for a while when the others immigrate to America.
Paperback, 160 pages
Published November 1st 1993 by Puffin (first published January 1st 1992)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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.
Maureen
Nov 20, 2008 Maureen rated it it was amazing
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
Meaghan
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
...more
Linda Lipko
Mar 01, 2011 Linda Lipko rated it really liked it
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

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...more
Katie Ulmen-Smith
May 01, 2016 Katie Ulmen-Smith rated it really liked it
"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,
...more
Bish Denham
Feb 08, 2015 Bish Denham rated it liked it
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
...more
Jamie Ayres
Jan 06, 2016 Jamie Ayres rated it it was amazing
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!
Isaiah
Jun 02, 2016 Isaiah rated it it was ok

The story, "Letters From Rifka", by Karen Hesse, is about a Russian peasant named Rifka who tries to get out of Russia with her family because they don’t accept their Jewish religion. They ended up moving to America but Rifka couldn’t go because she had typhus. When the rest of her family was at America, she was in Belgium, Germany getting treated. When she wanted to go to America with her family when her typhus got treated she got diagnosed with ringworm. When Rifka was getting treated she wrot
...more
Leana
May 27, 2016 Leana rated it it was ok

The book Letters from Rifka, by Karen Hesse is about a girl named Rifka who lived in Russia during world war 2 with her family but they did not think it was safe being a poor family during the war and risk dying, so father has chosen that the family will flee and go to America. While they are fleeing they have a lot of obstacles In there way like, having to get split up, disease, and getting left behind. While all of this is happening Rifka has a diary that she writes In to her cousin. Rifka mee
...more
Annikka
Dec 04, 2015 Annikka rated it it was amazing
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
...more
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
Jan 06, 2015 Andrew Duros rated it it was amazing
Andrew Duros
World Literature
Ms.Young
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
...more
Violet
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
Mar 03, 2014 Hanna Ballard rated it it was amazing
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
Jason
Jun 01, 2016 Jason rated it it was ok
Letters from Rifka" by Karen Hesse, this chronicles the story about Rifka and her family in Russia during 1919. When war and the risk of dying forces the family out of Russia, the family must flee to America. On the way, the family face many obstacles and Rifka face many things on the way that she writes in her diary that she will send to her cousin. Then, a tragedy strikes that separates Rifka and her family, but while they're separated, Rifka has many experiences that open her up to new things ...more
Janine
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.
Avery Miller
Jan 20, 2016 Avery Miller rated it really liked it
I loved this book so much! I've never really tried historical fiction, but after reading this book I want to give it a try. I love how easy it is to put yourself in the character's shoes because it is told in first person. It feels like I am there with her in the book. There are some negatives about the book though. The book is very easy to predict and to understand. When something bad happens, the characters always find a way to overcome the challenge. There are no major twists or interest poin ...more
Brian
Jun 03, 2016 Brian rated it really liked it
Letters from Rifka
The historical fiction novel "Letters from Rifka" by Karen Hesse is about a girls immigration story from Russia to America told by letters she writes to her friend.Like I said before the story starts in Russia with Rifka and her family who plan to leave Russia to escape prejudice against Jews. They are able to board a train to leave Russia with minimal disruptions and are off too start their journey. All is going well until Typhus runs through the family hospitalizing her moth
...more
Jordan
May 31, 2016 Jordan rated it liked it
The story “Letters from Rifka” written by Karen Hesse is the story of a brave young (12 year old) Jewish girl that must escape from her hometown in Russia as a peasant along with her family. Getting out of her hometown was the easy part but her trip was harsh and hard. She learns new things along the way to America, new customs and new foods such as bananas and ice-cream. She writes in her Pushkin and pretends they are letters to her cousin when she needs someone to talk to. Everything was fine ...more
Ryan
Jun 02, 2016 Ryan rated it it was ok
"Letters from Rifka," by Karen Hesse, is about a Russian Jewish peasant who is looking for freedom from Russian discrimination of Jews which takes place after World War I. Rifka is writing letters to her cousin in Russia from her Pushkin as she makes her way across Europe and the Atlantic with her family. She then has to split up from her family in Austria due to disease and stays there for almost a year until her quarantine is over. After Rifka's 6 month quarantine she then boards a boat going ...more
Avery Miller
Jan 19, 2016 Avery Miller rated it really liked it
This book was a good read! Historical fiction is very interesting to me because I like to put myself in other people's shoes. The book is very sad in some parts but very happy and enjoyable at other points. Something I didn't like about this book is that it is very easy to expect what will happen next. There are also lots of characters you have to remember because she has 5 brothers. Some of them are in America and others are with Rifka as they travel. Something in the book that caught my attent ...more
Catherine Gembara
Apr 18, 2016 Catherine Gembara rated it really liked it
Shelves: immigration, poverty
This historical fiction book describes Jewish immigration during the early 20th century. What is different about this book from other Jewish immigration books, is that it is set before WWII and in Russia. I think most students have some idea of Hitler and the problems in Poland and Germany, but I like that the perspective of this book is from a Russian girl. Rifka also gets separated from her family due to illness, which would have been a reality for many families immigrating to America during t ...more
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
...more
Amanda Hayes
Nov 08, 2014 Amanda Hayes rated it really liked it
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
Christina
Mar 23, 2014 Christina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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,
...more
VY
Jan 26, 2016 VY rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
A good story always has several obstacles that the protagonist has to overcome. Rifka, the main character in this novel, definitely has her share. Set back in 1919, this book takes us on a journey of one family trying to get from their old home in Russia to the unknown land of the United States. Rifka endures all her hardships by holding on to the one thing that remains in her possession throughout: a book on poetry by Alexander Pushkin. She uses this book as a canvas to write about her experien ...more
Catherine Gillespie
My nine-year-old loved Letters from Rifka and asked me to read it so we could have a book discussion. The story–told in the form of letters the main character writes to her cousin in the margins of her book of Pushkin’s poetry–follows a brave little girl whose Jewish family flees anti-Semitic Russia in 1919 to follow her older brothers to America. Along the way the family fights disease and prejudice, and finally Rifka has to be left behind while still contagious. Living under the protection of ...more
Kayla
Mar 25, 2015 Kayla rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 17, 2014 the boss is awesome rated it liked it
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
Emily
May 27, 2016 Emily added it
I did not find "Letters From Rifka" by Karen Hesse enjoyable. This story is about a young Jewish girl traveling from Russia to America, but must be left in Belgium to have ringworm treated as her family goes across the sea to the new world in 1919. The author wrote the story in multiple formats such as conversations, journal entries, and inner thoughts. I got bored of the book fairly quick and there was nothing that left me on the edge of my seat. On a scale from one to ten, I would give this bo ...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 http://us.macmillan.com/author/karenh...
More about Karen Hesse...

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