Acclaimed author Hopkinson recounts the lives of five immigrants to New York's Lower East Side through oral histories and engaging narrative. We hear Romanian-born Marcus Ravage's disappointment when his aunt pushes him outside to peddle chocolates on the street. And about the pickle cart lady who stored her pickles in a rat-infested basement. We read Rose Cohen's terrifying account of living through the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, and of Pauline Newman's struggles to learn English. But through it all, each one of these kids keeps working, keeps hoping, to achieve their own American dream.
This chronicle of the challenges facing immigrants in New York's teeming tenements effectively employs primary sources to place a personal face on broader historical events, helping children make sense of the impressive statistic that about 23 million people came to the U.S. between 1880-1919, with 17 million entering via New York (the book ends in 1924, with the passage of legislation that limited immigration). Hopkinson (Fannie in the Kitchen) follows five transplants from Belarus, Italy, Lithuania and Romania who emigrated as children or teens (all of the subjects later wrote autobiographies or articles and speeches, which serve as the foundation for Hopkinson's text). Through them the author explores issues ranging from the bewilderment of greenhorns like 16-year-old Marcus, who didn't understand why his seemingly wealthy relatives ("[they] could indulge in the luxury of meat in the middle of the day") shared their apartment with half a dozen or more boarders, to the growing unrest of exploited laborers who gradually gathered the courage to agitate for better working conditions. She balances a highly readable discussion of change and reform with a look at the culture, joy and play that also characterized these vibrant communities. Throughout, period photographs ably support and highlight the text. Ages 8-12. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.