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Gittel's Journey: An Ellis Island Story

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  339 ratings  ·  81 reviews
Gittel and her mother were supposed to immigrate to America together, but when her mother is stopped by the health inspector, Gittel must make the journey alone. Her mother writes her cousin’s address in New York on a piece of paper. However, when Gittel arrives at Ellis Island, she discovers the ink has run and the address is illegible! How will she find her family? Both ...more
Hardcover, 42 pages
Published February 5th 2019 by Harry N. Abrams
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Average rating 4.21  · 
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 ·  339 ratings  ·  81 reviews

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David Schaafsma
A lovely nostalgic picture book about a nine-year-old girl, Gittel, who must leave Poland to emigrate to America. She was going with her mother, but her mother had an eye infection, was denied passage on to the boat, Still, she sent (her beloved) Gittel (who looks like her, which somehow makes the separation more wrenching) anyway, explaining that it was not safe for her to stay where they had been living.

Apparently we need all the reminders we can get about why it is refugees leave their
Lisa Vegan
This is a very touching, rather text heavy picture book (on most 2 page spreads there is a short but not that short page of text on one page and an illustration on the other page) about a young girl who must travel to the U.S. alone when her mother isn’t allowed to travel due to a health condition. The mother sends her anyway since she is Jewish and it is not safe for her to stay where she is in Eastern Europe, sometimes Poland/sometimes Russia. The story and its illustrations is lovely and ...more
Feb 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Readers Looking for New Picture-Books About the Immigrant Experience
When nine-year-old Gittel and her mother arrive at the seaport, ready to board a ship in order to emigrate to America, the health inspector tells Gittel's mother that her eye infection precludes her from going. Putting Gittel on board the ship by herself, with their cousin's name and address in New York City, the mother instructs her to be brave. So begins a weeks-long voyage, as the young girl experiences life on board ship, and eventually finds herself at Ellis Island, in New York Harbor. But ...more
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
A great book for classroom discussion when discussing early immigration. Newman does a nice job of highlighting different obstacles and decisions people had to make before immigrating to the United States. Some of these decisions included leaving everything behind, families traveling separately or being denied entry based on medical conditions, and finding family when media did not exist. A valuable book about an immigrant's experience.
A beautifully told story of a young girl immigrating alone to America.
Cindy Dobrez
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful art and book design enhance this familiar but powerful immigration story.
Other than feeling like it jumped into the story, we enjoyed it thoroughly.
A fine addition to a classroom collection on immigration stories, this picture book is actually based on two family stories, which adds to its poignancy. When Gittel and her mother are ready to leave the Old Country (the area claimed at various times by Poland and Russia), her mother is turned back by an inspector because she has an eye infection. But Mama insists that the girl board the ship for the United States because their home is not safe. She gives her daughter her precious candlesticks, ...more
Alex  Baugh
When living in their small Jewish Eastern European village is no longer safe for Gittel and her mother, they decide to emigrate to the United States, where Mama's cousin Mendel lives. When an eye infection prevents Mama from boarding the ship to the US, she decides to send Gittel alone. Clutching Cousin Mendel's address, scared and along, Gittel makes the crossing, but by the time she reaches New York, the ink on the paper has rubbed away and no one read the address. Luckily, a kind Yiddish ...more
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read this beautiful picture book this morning and sent my husband out to find the tissues!

Gittel's Journey is a family story of a young girl who sets out from the old country - sometimes Russia, sometimes Poland, the national borders kept moving (or, as my grandmother called it "Russia-Poland") - to board to ship to America. Due to unexpected circumstances, she makes the journey alone. She is scared, she is lonely. But other children invite her to play and share kindness. And, upon reaching
Neile B
May 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-s
A sweet and endearing story based on true events. Nine yr. old Gittel, a Jewish girl, makes the journey to America alone.
After her mother's request to travel to America is denied, Gittel is encouraged to make the trip to Ellis Island and meet up with her mother's cousins. Beautiful illustrations and the font is perfect for this old world story.
Alyssa Gudenburr
A beautiful story about a Jewish child who travels to America by herself in the early 1900's. The story is based on a true story of two family members of the author's family. This book is a great reminder of what the Statue of Liberty means to immigrants, the sadness felt when families are separated, and a hope for a better future in America.
Jun 23, 2019 added it
Shelves: picturebooks
A child travels from pogroms to Ellis Island, alone. I think right NOW would be a good time for everyone to read this book.
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely loved this. Powerful story about immigration, I felt Gittle's fear & hope.
Jun 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have been lucky enough to be sent this finished book early although it is scheduled to publish in 2019.

Lovely illustrations by Amy June Bates are done in soft dark toned watercolors with Gittel's red headscarf lighting each page. This tale, based on two true stories, is a fascinating and memorable story and an ideal introduction to the history of Ellis Island and immigration. Clearly told with the inclusion of details that children can readily identify with. Newman includes a glossary of
Jul 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
This picture book for children is based on the life of the author's mother's best friend Phyllis. It is similar to, and thus emblematic of, the stories of other immigrants who passed through Ellis Island around the turn of the 19th century. Millions of people were desperate to get out of their own countries, or at least get their children out, in order to protect them from danger and/or to enable them to have better lives.

Many Jews, like Gittel, the little girl in the story, came from families
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019t, t
Why we chose this book:
I am totally a book-cover judger. If the cover catches my eye, I'm so much more likely to read the synopsis. And doesn't Gittel's scarf just catch your eye, too? Abrams provided a review copy.

Mom's Review (V)

An emotional account of young Gittel's journey to America alone.

Based on two true stories from the author's relatives, Gittel's Journey recounts how fictional Gittel's mother is turned away by immigration officials, prompting her to send Gittel alone to a relative in
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
When Gittel and her mother are about to get on the boat that will carry them from Russia to America, Gittel’s mother is turned away due to an eye infection. Gittel at age nine, is sent alone to America. She has a note with her mother’s cousin’s address in her pocket. She checks on it constantly to make sure she hasn’t lost it on the long journey. She spends much of it alone, but also meets children on board the ship. However, when she reaches Ellis Island, the ink on the note has run and no ...more
Cindy Mitchell *Kiss the Book*
Gittel's Journey : An Ellis Island Story by Lesléa Newman illustrated by Amy June Bates PICTURE BOOK Abrams Books for Young Readers. 2019. $18. 9781419727474



Gittel and her mother are immigrating to America. When they get to the boat, her mother is not allowed to board because she has an eye infection, so nine-year-old Gittel must travel to America alone. Her mother has given her the name and address of her cousin who is expecting
A very heavy subject for kids but definitely a great read. My daughter and I cried through this book, most of it very sad. A little girl named Gittel must travel alone to American in the early 1900's. She doesn't expect to make the journey alone but her mother is denied travel based on an eye infection.

The illustrations are gorgeous, the subject is sad and often we cried for the loneliness that Gittel felt (only 9 years old). She knew that she had to be brave and the immigration officers
Jenny Hartfelder
Gittel's Journey is the story of a young girl who emigrates to America by herself when her mother is forbidden passage due to an eye infection. The immigration officer finds a creative solution to help her find her uncle when they realize that the address has been smudged off the paper.

The mother said, "Home is not safe for us." As a mother myself, it's hard to comprehend how sending your 9yo across the ocean by herself could possibly be safer than staying together, even in a dangerous
With immigration issues dominating the news, young readers should also learn about those who came to America during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. People wanted to come to America for many reasons, and this story helps readers understand a bit about Jewish people who immigrated from Russia. Gittel and her mother were on their way to board a ship bound for America. But when health inspectors refused passage to her mother, Gittel was sent onboard by herself. With beautifully ...more
Gittel, a young girl, and her mother are leaving their life behind and heading for America. But when they try to board the boat, the mother has an eye infection and isn’t allowed on. So her mother insists that Gittel go on alone. “You must be very brave, Gittel.”

When she gets to Ellis Island, the address of her mother’s cousin, which was written on a piece of paper that Gittel clung to the whole journey, is illegible due to smudging. A kindly interpreter put Gittel’s picture in the Jewish
May 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jewish, pb
I love this book! My colleague Elizabeth very kindly put it aside for me, and I am so happy she did. Little Gittel must leave her home in Eastern Europe for America and her first obstacle is saying goodbye to her goat. She meets many other obstacles along the way, especially when her mama is diagnosed with an eye infection and Gittel must go on by herself to meet her cousin Mendel in NYC. Gittel has her family's precious Shabbas candlesticks but only Mama has the candles. How will Gittel make ...more
I've visited Ellis Island and it is an inspiration to read the stories and see the artifacts that are displayed there of the people who came to the U.S. through Ellis Island. This story is based on a couple of stories in Leslea Newman's past. It's hard to imagine young children like Gittel making this long journey alone! But they did, and you can read this story now, illustrated with soft-hued paintings by Amy June Bates that remind one of pictures from the past. Leslie tells more about her own ...more
Nov 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a tender story of immigration. Gittel and her mother are unsafe in Poland, and flee to join relatives in New York. Nine year old Gittel does not understand the political/racial reasons to leave, but experiences the loss of her homeland in painful good-byes to her friends and her goat. As they are being processed to board the ship to America, Gittel's mother is refused passage because of a eye infection. Nevertheless, for Gittel's safety, she sends her daughter on to America without her. ...more
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
The story is based on the experiences of the author's own family members. (Her grandmother carried over shabbos candlesticks, her aunt who had to travel to America by herself while her own aunt recovered from an eye infection.) The story is told well, offering various details of her Gittel's experience--both the lighthearted times and the challenges. The beautiful watercolor illustrations capture the time period and maintain of feeling of warmth which is mirrored in the text itself. The design ...more
T Crockett
This is a beautiful book, quite literally. The illustrations are spare but full of emotion. Each page has elaborate edging that reminds me of wooden carvings in old churches.

It's a rather somber book so I don't know that a child would want to hear it again and again, but there is adventure, courage and unexpected kindness. It would be great to use as an introduction to immigration or the holocaust (though this takes place earlier in history). It could be used to help kids have some context for
Apr 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a beautiful mesh of stories that tells the story of a young girl having to travel to the United States by herself for safety. With the refugee problems we are currently having, especially the ones regarding children, I think this book is more important than ever. It gives a child's point of view, shows that safety is the end goal, and creates compassion and understanding in a world that desperately needs it. It felt like the type of story I would listen to growing up from all my ...more
Apr 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a touching story, one that has been told in some version over and over. This time, however, it's not a family coming to a new land, it's one single nine-year-old girl. I can't even imagine, but it's based on a true story, although the "true story" girl was a few years older. Local illustrator Amy June Bates did a wonderful job with the illustrations, which include some lovely block prints (I do enjoy block prints!) Quite a bit of text, but the story is told well so that even quite young ...more
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Lesléa Newman (born 1955, Brooklyn, NY) is the author of over 50 books including Heather Has Two Mommies, A Letter To Harvey Milk, Writing From The Heart, In Every Laugh a Tear, The Femme Mystique, Still Life with Buddy, Fat Chance and Out of the Closet and Nothing to Wear.
She has received many literary awards including Poetry Fellowships from the Massachusetts Artists Fellowship Foundation and