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

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  849 Ratings  ·  113 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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Feb 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childrens, favorites
This beautifully illustrated book shares the immigrant experience of many eastern Europeans through the eyes of Jesse, a Jewish teen, who is awarded a ticket to America. She reluctantly leaves her beloved Grandmother and travels on the boat that will take her past the awe inspiring Statue of Liberty to Ellis Island. Other passengers of various ethnic backgrounds are shown, and Jesse befriends a young man named Lou. Taken in by a dressmaker in NYC, Jesse sews lace, and by chance re-meets Lou and ...more
(NS) Heatherk
Nov 02, 2009 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.
When Jessie Came Across the Sea by Amy Hest tells of Jessie and her grandmother, who live in a poor unnamed village in Eastern Europe. One day the rabbi, who teaches the community’s young people to read, shares the news that his brother has died and left him a ticket to America. The rabbi doesn’t feel that he can leave his people, and so he gives the ticket to Jessie. He tells her she can live with the rabbi’s brother’s widow in New York. On the ship that takes Jessie to America, immigrants swap ...more
Friend of Pixie (F.O.P.)
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
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.
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When Jessie Came Across the Sea is an amazing story that really puts things into perspective. Jessie loses her parents as a small child and was raised by her grandmother until she's sent overseas against her wishes by her town. The story follows Jessie throughout her journey as she grows up and learns new things. She matures and she learns to do things on her own. At the end of the story, Jessie finally finds happiness through love and the arrival of her grandmother traveling to New York to atte ...more
Apr 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
short and sweet
Jessie, a young 13-year-old Jewish orphan is chosen by her Rabbi to leave her village and grandmother, to go to America on a ship. She will live with the Rabbi's sister-in-law, Kay, who is now a widow, in New York City. Jessie had learned how to sew lace from her grandmother and makes things for others on the ship, as well as working for Kay in her dress shop once she arrived in America. This was labeled as a cultural diversity book by the library from which I got it, but there really isn't much ...more
Allison Bass
Feb 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wow-books
I really loved this book for many different reasons. I think that this book gives such a personal connection to immigrants and why they might come to America. The young girl, Jessie, in this book is sent to America by her Rabbi to sew in a shop in New York City. She is very scared to leave her only living relative, her grandmother, but has to get on the ship to sail to America. She arrives at Ellis Island and then starts working at the shop. She soon goes to classes to learn how to read and writ ...more
Jun 28, 2011 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
Meggie Donovan
This is one of my favorite books growing up. I always wanted to add it to my collection now but could not remember the name of the book. I recently came across it in a used book store and instantly remembered it for it's beautiful illustrations and poignant story. In full honesty, I cried reading the story again as an adult. This book packs a great emotional punch! This touching depiction of a young woman forced to leave her family behind to immigrate to America would be an excellent addition to ...more
Jul 18, 2014 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
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 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.
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
Jill Hayden
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When Jessie Came Across the Sea is a very well-written book by Amy Hest. This book is a historical fiction book that takes place at the turn of the nineteenth century. The story follows a thirteen-year-old girl as she has to leave her eastern European village to take a ship to New York City. Readers may feel as if they have been transported to the time period while reading this book. The story is told in such a way that it keeps readers engaged and wanting to know what happens. The characters of ...more
Michelle Rachitoff
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
1. Awards the book has received (if any): Kate Greenaway Medal 1997, Bisto Merit Award 1998
2. Appropriate grade level(s): 2nd grade to 5th grade
3. Original 3-line summary: This story follows Jessie, a young European girl who lives with her grandmother. Jessie is chosen by her rabbi to immigrate to America. She has to leave her grandmother and is sad by this. It details her journey to America and the hardship she has to go through with being an immigrant in America.
4. Original 3-line review: I
Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful book about a young girl who gets a coveted ticket to leave her home country and travel to the United States. She has to make the tough decision to leave her grandmother, but deep in their hearts they know they will always be connected and hopefully, one day see each other again. Jessie's grandmother has given her the tools to make her successful in the New World by teaching her how to sew. This skill sets Jessie up for success when she is in New York. She becomes a seamstress ...more
Amanda Vander hyde
This story follows a girl who travels across the sea to America to try and start a life with more opportunity. She is an Irish immigrant, which shows children what a hard life it can be as an immigrant and the terrible conditions some people are trying to escape to have a better life (it helps them look through a window to see what other people suffer through). It also talks about how hard she works and just examines her life, helping others to be more empathetic to the plight of those who come ...more
This is a really beautiful story of family love and endurance. I happened to read this book with my mother and she cried, so I know it is able to evoke emotion. While this story does not portray the extremely hardships that awaited European immigrants to America, it is a beautiful representation of the new lives that immigrants were able to secure through hard work. It is a great example of a children’s historical fiction book.
Nov 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Genre: Historical Fiction
Recommend Grade Level: Primary

"When Jessie Came Across the Sea" would be a great book to use in talking about the history of immigration and how America was seen as the new world. It talks about making the best in where you are and working hard, with a great ending. The illustrations are beautiful and tell a story all by themselves.
Emily Parker
An absolutely amazing picture book with a heart-warming story and beautiful illustrations. I loved the character of Jessie, the romance, the story, the hope, and the lesson of hard work. So grateful for my brave ancestors who passed through Ellis Island so I could live in the United States of America, and grateful for this story painting a clearer picture of immigrants' lives.
Mellanie C
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was going too donate this book to the reading nook at my school, but I love it so much I want to keep it for a while. This is the story of Jessie, a young immigrant girl, who is sent to America when her village's rabbi gets a ticket from a relative. Jessie sews and earns enough money for a ticket to send for her beloved grandmother. The illustrations are lovely, and the story is nice.
Hannah Grosse
Nov 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A healthy combination of romance and logic, this book is a great one for most ages of children. The plot was intriguing but also realistic, as Jessie gets to the states and realizes it is not made of gold. The story had a simple elegance to it, and the illustrations were superb. I plan to own this book someday.
Ms Threlkeld
Engrossing portrayal of one girl's immigrant experience. Fairly text heavy, so a good fit for upper elementary students. It would be interesting to compare this book to ones that explore the modern immigrant experience.
Osmara Rico
This book is about Jessi, who is thirteen years old. She leaves her grandmother and immigrates to New York City. She works there for three years, trying to earn the money to bring her grandmother to New York City.
Mar 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tells to story of a young girl's inspirational and emotional journey across the sea. Beautifully written with skillful use of imagery. Illustrations are detailed and rich, which complements the serious tone of the story.
Abbie Gerig
Dec 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children-lit
Genre: Historical Fiction
Grades: 3-5

I love stories like this one where there is a separation between family, but then they are reunited at the end. These types of stories happened all the time back then when people would seek out a new life in a new country, and not all of them would end with finding what was being sought. But at least this story did.
It had a floppy ending and was not that interesting
Lauren Waters
Jan 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Jessie's journey to America, and I think this book would pair nicely with clips from the film Brooklyn to teach historical fiction.
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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.
More about Amy Hest