Migration, in the simplest sense, is about finding a hospitable place to live. Birds and animals do it. Humans, do it, too.
When conditions get less favorable where you live, sometimes you have to leave, giving up everything, even your family and your pets. That’s what author Leslea Newman with pictures by Amy June Bates try to explain in the book, “Gittel’s Journey: An Ellis Island Story.”
Newman takes the stories of two of her ancestors, meld them together, to created a fictionalized version of what happened to millions of children during the years of 1892 and 1954, who emigrated from Europe.They entered the United States via Ellis Island, where the Statue of Liberty stands tall, beckoning those arriving, with her torch of light.
Today, immigrants come not only by sea but also by air and by road.
This book serves a significant two-fold purpose, among others. First, it’s an immigrant story, told through by the descendant of one of the earliest arrivals to the United States, whose first experience is at Ellis Island. For American children who are hearing so much about the immigration and children being separated from their families, “Gittel’s Journey” paints a graphic picture of the sacrifices immigrants have to make sometimes. And for children who have taken this journey to America, they will understand very well how Gittel felt and also see that they are not alone.
Other themes in the book are hopefulness and the bond of family. Gittel was also grounded by the faith she had been taught as a little girl. What she learned and practiced gave her a sense of who she was in a very unfamiliar world. The book quickly touches on how some immigrants were treated different from others. That is true today.
Different waves of people have been coming to the shores of the U.S. throughout its history. That is why it is said that America is a nation of immigrants. Indeed, It is.